Rohit Sharma (right) celebrates scoring a half century during the second ODI against West Indies. (AP Photo)
Motera: The manner of their victories may have been unpredictable, but India are still on course for an expected series whitewash when they take on West Indies in the third one-dayer (ODI) here on Monday.
India have not looked like the dominant force they have been at home this year, even if the side is missing several regulars. The bowlers were impressive in Cuttack – both with the ball and with the bat – but came up short against a defiant Ravi Rampaul in Visakhapatnam, as the West Indies No 10 went on the attack to slam a 66-ball 86. However, after a dismal performance in the first match, the batsmen came up with the goods, the in-form Virat Kohli (117) and Rohit Sharma (90*) putting India on the brink of a series win. The hosts will now hope both the bowlers and the batsmen can fire together at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium.
It will be interesting to see the response of India’s young bowlers, in particular R Ashwin and Varun Aaron, who came in for severe treatment at the hands of West Indies’ tailenders in the second match. Cleaning up the tail has long been a problem for India, though the inexperienced attack has done well to put India into that position.
The main concern for the hosts, though, will be the lack of starts at the top of the order. None of the openers – be it stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag, his opening partner Parthiv Patel, or Gautam Gambhir, playing at No 3 – have been among the runs, and the team management might consider giving Ajinkya Rahane a look-in, with the Mumbai batsman having impressed in the two ODI series against England. Lower down, Suresh Raina is also yet to find form, though the prolific Kohli and Sharma have taken the spotlight away from him. Kohli, in fact, is slowly cementing his reputation in the shorter format – He has scored 1,258 runs from 31 games this year, including four centuries, with three of them coming in his last eight appearances.
Unfortunately for the West Indies, the failure of their batsmen has cost the team far more. A worrying tendency to collapse means they had to rely on the late heroics of Rampaul to take them to a competitive total in Visakhapatnam. Barring Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, no one has looked in any kind of form, with many throwing away their wicket after getting a start. Skipper Darren Sammy himself has been out of sorts, while at the top, Marlon Samuels and Adrian Barath have disappointed.
The bowlers have fared far better, with Kemar Roach picking up five wickets so far and Rampaul also contributing on his return in the second game. And while the all-rounders like Samuels, Sammy and Andre Russell have done a decent job, there may be a case for the inclusion of spinner Sunil Narine, who could add some variety to the otherwise largely pace-dependent attack.
As West Indies coach Ottis Gibson rightly pointed out, the West Indies have not disgraced themselves and indeed, they have shown a lot of fight to have India in trouble on more than one occasion. However, just as the inexperienced visitors will rue their failure to have held their nerve to seal a win, India will be pleased with the tenacity their young stars have shown to bail the team out of difficult situations. And while their record at this ground is nothing to write home about – India have lost seven of the 13 ODIs played here, including three of the four against the West Indies – past records will count for little, with India still the more consistent, and therefore the more likely, to go over the finishing line.
India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Parthiv Patel (wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Abhimanyu Mithun and Rahul Sharma.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Danza Hyatt, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Kemar Roach, Anthony Martin, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell and Ravi Rampaul.