No let up in intensity as focus shifts to ODIs

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14 Dec 2019 | 06:11 AM
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Hardik Worah

No let up in intensity as focus shifts to ODIs

Spinners hardly had their say in the India-West Indies T20I series but it can all change at the Chepauk

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West Indies 39. India 31.

The three-match Twenty20 International series between India and West Indies was a complete six-hitting fest, with the former putting in a dominant display in the decider in Mumbai to emerge victorious. All three encounters were studded with massive sixes, intense confrontations, over-the-top celebrations, sheer pace, and two charged up skippers who were always on the opponent's face.

The two sides will now try to feed off that energy when they come face to face for the first One-Day International of the three-match series in Chennai on Sunday (December 15). Spinners hardly had their say in the T20Is but it can all change in the matter of few overs on Sunday as the surface at Chepauk is no less than a heaven for the tweakers.

The venue will be hosting its first 50-over international game since September 2017 but the MA Chidambaram Stadium has been home to Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. The surface at the Chepauk offers a lot of assistance to spinners who have dictated terms here in the last two years. In 10 T20s since the start of 2018, spinners have returned 61 wickets here striking every 19.4 deliveries at an average of 20.5. The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja will enjoy bowling on this pitch and their presence will give India a slight advantage over West Indies who themselves have got few decent spinners in their squad.

India have played only one ODI series since the 2019 World Cup and it was against the same opponent. West Indies were no match to Virat Kohli and Co. as the skipper was in astounding form in that series, scoring two centuries to help India win two out of three matches. Meanwhile, the remaining one encounter was washed out. The 31-year-old once again looked a different beast altogether in the T20I series and smashed match-winning knocks of 70* and 94* in the first and third game respectively. There were other contributors as well but it was Kohli who made the most impact.

The number three batsman is the leading run-scorer this year in the 50-over format and at the moment just looks unstoppable. In 2019, Kohli has scored 1288 runs in 22 innings at an average of 64.4. Kohli's record in Chennai is also pretty good. He averages a decent 46.5 in ODIs at this venue with two half-centuries and a century in six innings. West Indies players were constantly chirping at Kohli and that was never going to end well for the Men in Maroon. And if Kohli won't get you, Rohit Sharma will!

2019 has been the year of Rohit! The right-hander has been relentless across formats this year but has reserved his best for the ODIs. He has scored 1232 runs in 2019 at an average of 53.57 which includes five half-centuries and six centuries. His record against West Indies is also excellent. Rohit has 1265 runs against the Caribbean nation in 28 innings, averaging a hefty 57.5. He showed his class in the final T20I in Mumbai and will want to continue the run in the ODIs too. Rohit however will be without his usual partner - Shikhar Dhawan, who has been ruled out of the series because of a knee injury. He was replaced by Mayank Agarwal but it will most probably be KL Rahul who will join hands with Rohit at the top.

Rahul has been India's most consistent batsman in the T20 format and despite oozing class, the Karnataka lad for some reason hasn't been able to replicate that in the other two formats. The right-hander amassed 598 runs in the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy and ended up as tournament's third-highest run-getter. The onus will now be on him to cement his place at the top, exactly like how he did in the T20I series. The top-order has never been the problem for team India, it's the middle order that has been the topic of debate of late.

One of Shreyas Iyer or Manish Pandey will have to finalise that No. 4 spot, but for now the former will keep that position after scoring two fifties in West Indies earlier this year. The time is also running out for Kedar Jadhav who will soon be 35 but the canny all-rounder might get a go at Chepauk, a surface he knows very well, courtesy Chennai Super Kings. Shivam Dube is someone else who will be looking to make this opportunity count as Hardik Pandya will be fit by the next tour and the former hasn't done enough to challenge Pandya for the all-rounder spot.

The other player who will enjoy playing here is Jadeja. The all-rounder doesn't have extraordinary numbers in this format but the 31-year-old has improved a lot in the last year or two. Jadeja knows Chepauk inside out and the sluggish surface will suit his style of bowling. As a batsman, Jadeja has become a lot more consistent and can be trusted if India want to play an extra batsman. The conditions will also allow India to play both Chahal and Kuldeep who have very good record against West Indies. In the pace department, India have Mohammed Shami, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur to choose from. Shardul was announced as Bhuvneshwar's replacement after the latter was ruled out after his groin injury recurred.

Meanwhile, West Indies haven't beaten India in the last six ODIs but the Kieron Pollard-led side has played some exciting brand of cricket ever since he has taken over the command. They whitewashed Afghanistan in the three-match ODI series and challenged India to the fullest in T20Is.

West Indies have quite a balanced squad when it comes to ODIs. The likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King and Nicholas Pooran provide that firepower, while in Sunil Ambris, Shai Hope and Roston Chase, West Indies have batsmen who can hold the innings together. Hope has easily been their best batsman in 2019. He has 1123 runs in 23 innings this year at an average of 56.15. His record against India is also pretty good. In 13 innings, Hope has scored 471 runs at an average of 42.82 which includes three half-centuries and a ton.

West Indies team management will also be delighted with the way Pollard has led the team from the front. The 32-year-old slammed a blistering knock of 68 in the final T20I in Mumbai and India will be wary of the threat he can cause down the order. The surface will also allow West Indies to play Chase who has a bowling average of 31.62 - fourth best by a spinner in 2019 (minimum 8 wickets). Apart from him, the visitors also have Khary Pierre and Hayden Walsh, who are yet to prove their worth in the international circuit.

In the fast bowling department, Sheldon Cottrell has been West Indies' best bowler in 2019. The left-arm paceman has taken 26 wickets this year at an average of 31.57. He along with Jason Holder will have to share most of the burden in the bowling department.

Teams

India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.

West Indies: Sunil Ambris, Shai Hope (wk), Khary Pierre, Rostan Chase, Alzarri Joseph, Kieron Pollard (c), Sheldon Cottrell, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Romario Shepherd, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Hayden Walsh Jr.

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