Amidst compact scheduling, the Indian team has caught a rare breather. Ever since they landed in England, before coming over to the Caribbean, this is the first time they have had a gap of three days between matches of the same series. The third T20I was played on August 2 in St. Kitts. But that doesn’t mean they are spared the toll of traveling. After a handful of glitches, the caravan has now moved to Florida.
The Florida leg might be the last two T20Is in India’s quest to check their bench strength and nail down their best combinations ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia. The Asia Cup starting at the end of this month could see India field their best XI in a bid to test their side in a multi-team tournament. It is also likely to be the last tournament before they have to announce their T20 World Cup squad. Hence, these two T20Is could be about reaching a point of certitude for a few players.
West Indies are further away from reaching any sort of conviction in their squad but there must be a tinge of positivity in their camp. They competed fiercely in the ODIs. The victory in the second T20I will make them more confident about their credentials against the Men in Blue. For Windies, the sole purpose is to turn around their 1-2 trail in the series.
Last chance for Avesh, Shreyas?
One of the prime contenders to board the flight to Australia, Avesh Khan has had a horror run in England and West Indies. Avesh’s combined figures across three T20Is on these two tours carry a grim reading: 9.2-0-131-2. The economy (13.2) is soaring high for a frontline pacer. Throw in his ODI debut (0/54 in six overs) and Avesh has slipped in the last step before pressing a claim for a World Cup spot.
There is a similar story with Shreyas Iyer. In 18 months between January 2021 and June 2022, Iyer averaged 39.8 at a strike-rate of 134.1 in 34 T20Is. But since he was exposed on the short ball front in the 2022 IPL, Iyer’s T20I average is languishing at 19.5. In the three T20Is in this series, he could only manage 0, 10 and 24.
Based on the pecking order, Iyer was preferred ahead of Deepak Hooda at the start of the series. Now, there is a feeling that he has exhausted the rope given to him. In Lauderhill, where the pitch has been helpful for finger spinners, India will have the option of benching Iyer and bringing back Ravindra Jadeja. It will be a move worth killing two birds with one stone - have Hooda bat at three and provide India three finger-spin options in Hooda, Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
In a similar vein, either Harshal Patel and Ravi Bishnoi can also replace Avesh Khan. Or will India give them another run to fix their returns?
West Indies need middle-order to fire
The hosts must be happy with the way their opening pair have transpired in the series. Both Brandon King (scores of 42, 68 and 20) and Kyle Mayers (scores of 15, 8 and 73) have put up vital scores. But the same has not transpired from the more experienced middle-order.
Nicholas Pooran averages 46.4 in the T20Is this year. He has looked solid every innings he has batted in the series but his top score remains only 22. Rovman Powell hammered a terrific 61 against Bangladesh last month but he is finding it hard to cope with the quality of India’s attack. He has only 42 runs in three appearances this series. Returning to the side after a layoff, Shimron Hetmyer has only 40 runs in these three outings. Given the brilliant IPL season he had, the expectations are much higher from him.
Collectively, the trio has scored only 136 runs in between them as compared to 184 by the two openers alone.
Rohit Sharma’s fitness?
There is an air of uncertainty around Rohit Sharma’s fitness. Back spasms forced the skipper to trudge off the ground during his innings in the third T20I in St. Kitts.
"It's okay at the moment. We've got a few days till the next game, hopefully, it should be okay," Rohit said of his injury after the match.
There is no further update on the injury as yet. Rohit has had troubles with his fitness this year. If not 100% fit, there is a good chance he can skip this game. In that case, India will have to look for another opener while they are already playing with a makeshift opener in Suryakumar Yadav. It can open up opportunities for Sanju Samson or Ishan Kishan to get their first chance in the series. It can also provide another chance for Iyer, at No.3.
However, who leads the side in Rohit's absence doesn't pose a clear answer. Each one of Iyer, Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have recent captaincy experience in the IPL. Based on experience and security in the side, the responsibility could fall between Pandya and Bhuvi. You see how Rohit's absence can open a can of worms for the Indian management? This is just a trailer.
West Indies: Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Nicholas Pooran ( c ), Rovman Powell, Shimron Hetmyer, Devon Thomas (wk), Jason Holder, Dominic Drakes, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Obed McCoy
India: Rohit Sharma ( c ), Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer/Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Deepak Hooda, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan/Ravi Bishnoi/Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh