Ranked fifth in the ICC T20I rankings, the Virat Kohli-led Indian side were exposed by the tenth ranked West Indian team in the second T20I in Thiruvananthapuram. Whether it was batting, bowling or fielding, the Men in Blue were outplayed by their Caribbean counterparts in all facets of the game.
More than conceding the game that allowed the visitors to level the series 1-1, the defeat was more concerning towards India’s preparations for the next year’s T20 World Cup. Yes, West Indies are the defending champions but they are also one of the most struggling sides in the format this year (their win percentage of 18.1 is only better than that of Pakistan’s 11.1 amongst the Test playing nations) and will be playing the qualification round ahead of the World Cup next year.
The Indian bowlers have leaked runs at a rate of 9.9 per over in the two games so far, their highest in a series this year and the second-highest overall in a series outside of the one-off T20 internationals (after 10.5 versus Sri Lanka in 2009). Exploring further, the death over economy rate has soared up to 12.8 runs per over, the highest in any series of at least two games.
The numbers suggest that the Indian bowling has hit the rock-bottom in this series spotlighting the giant void Jasprit Bumrah’s unavailability has left in the side. Unfortunately for India, Bumrah’s absence has coincided with Bhuvneshwar Kumar losing his touch. Bhuvneshwar, who had once formed one of the most formidable fast-bowling duos in white-ball cricket with Bumrah until a couple of years ago is currently going through his most expensive year in T20I cricket.
Along with their misfiring pace battery, question marks over Indian spinners also won’t be an exaggeration. Skipper Kohli was not sure how to use his left-arm orthodox spinner, Ravindra Jadeja with three left-handers in West Indies’ top four. Jadeja’s struggle against West Indies can be underlined by his career economy of 9.7 against them, largely due to the perpetuous supply of left-handers in the Caribbean batting line-up. The stats raise the question - Is Kuldeep Yadav a better pick than Ravindra Jadeja if India have to play three spinners against West Indies?
“If you field like that, then no total is big enough”, said Virat Kohli after India’s debacle in Thiruvananthapuram cutting some slack for his bowlers. The home side has dropped six catches in two games including some regulation outfield chances. Bhuvneshwar, trying to bowl himself into form was let down by his teammates who dropped two catches in his second over of the game. Except Kohli’s stunning catch at long-on to send Shimron Hetmyer back, India have been miles behind their opponents in terms of catching efficiency.
As a result, Lendl Simmons, one of the beneficiaries of India’s lacklustre fielding in Bhuvneshwar’s second over, notched up a match-winning fifty bringing back the memories of the 2016 WT20 semifinal and also highlighted the significance of fielding in the shortest format of the game.
Indian batting’s inability to push for impetus in the T20 format is turning out to be a never-ending debate. In Thiruvananthapuram, both sides played equal number of dot balls (44) and struck nearly the same number of fours (India 12, West Indies 11). However, the Caribbean batsmen hit 12 sixes in comparison to India’s five.
West Indies had the better batting conditions owing to dew taking effect in the second innings but India’s batting encountered a number of speed-breakers after Shivam Dube’s departure. From a position of 93 for two in 10 overs, India added only 77 runs in the second half of their innings.
This was not the first occasion when India’s innings reached the stagnation point. Unless one of their openers or Kohli bat deep, such events are a regular occurrence.
Approximately 60 percent is an alarmingly high number for the Indian team showing the dependency on the Indian openers and Virat Kohli to post a big total.
Chasing ritual and the flashback
Surprisingly, eight out of the nine completed T20Is in India this year have been won by the team batting second. At Wankhede, the venue for the series decider, five out of six games have been won by the chasing side. The last time these two sides turned up against each other at the venue was the famous 2016 WT20 semifinal where West Indies chased down India’s 192 without much fuss.
That game speaks about everything mentioned above in the article - India’s troubles with their bowling, inexplicable drop catches and the failure of batting to cover the blunders across both those departments. It is bizarrely fitting that the decider for the series has fallen in the lap of Mumbai.
Kohli’s restricted use of Jadeja because of three southpaws in West Indies’ top order makes the all-rounder uncertain for the tie-breaker. Kuldeep Yadav can be brought back into the XI if India continues to field the same bowling combination. However, the conditions at Wankhede demand pace and bounce instead of three spinners in the XI. Hence, Mohammed Shami, who has been in great bowling form in ODI cricket, might make a comeback to the T20I arena after two years.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal
With Nicholas Pooran back in the XI to take the number four spot, West Indies can ponder if they still require Brandon King’s services knowing they have the option of Sherfane Rutherford’s power in the middle over. Rest of the squad might not be disturbed after an emphatic win.
Probable XI: Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Kieran Pollard (c), Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, Khary Pierre, Hayden Walsh, Kesrick Williams, Sheldon Cottrell