West Indies eye top-order stability in bid to square series

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India players celebrate after the wicket of West Indies batsman Shai Hope during the fourth one day international (ODI) cricket match between India and West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on October 29, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

West Indies did deny Virat Kohli a hundred but a familiar Indian script unfolded at the CCI’s Brabourne Stadium: Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan provided the launchpad for a tall total. In a rather unfamiliar instance, though, an India No. 4 (Ambati Rayudu) cracked a century, as the side moves closer towards solving the middle-order jigsaw.

After coming close to matching the hosts’ firepower with the bat in the ODI series opener, tying with them and later toppling them, West Indies stretched back to the stragglers, again, in Mumbai. They need to win on Thursday in Thiruvananthapuram if they are to claim a share of the ODI series.

For that their flimsy top order needs some stability. Kieran Powell and Chandrapaul Hemraj are no Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis, but they haven’t even gone past the mandatory Powerplay unscathed in this series. This has applied further pressure on an inexperienced middle order, which folded under relentless scoreboard pressure on Monday. And the clock keeps ticking on the 37-year-old Marlon Samuels.

The 37-year old from India – MS Dhoni – seems to be fading away as well, with the bat. While his tactical nous and wicketkeeping skills are still indispensable, Hardik Pandya-less India want Dhoni to find a higher gear, which he briefly did in the IPL earlier this year.

In the spotlight

In the fourth ODI, Khaleel Ahmed showed why he had been fast-tracked into India’s World Cup plans. He consistently swung the white ball – with and against his left-arm angle – lending more spice to an already varied attack that has been bolstered by the returns of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The way he dismissed Samuels in Mumbai was particularly delightful. After breaching the defences of Shimron Hetmyer and Rovman Powell with inswingers, he moved one away to catch the outside edge of Samuels.

Rovman Powell is a junior Andre Russell. He has a Mr T hairstyle like Russell, he can tonk the ball high and far, and can pitch in with handy medium-pace. He has also swiftly established himself as a T20 globetrotter. However, he has struggled against spin here, falling twice to left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and once to Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm orthodox in four innings. All told, he has managed only 45 runs in four innings at an average of 11.25 and strike-rate of 68.18. Among West Indies batsmen, only Samuels had fared worse than him.

India had left out one of their gun bowlers Yuzvendra Chahal for batting insurance in Jadeja in the absence of the injured Pandya in the previous game. They might stick with the same combination, considering Dhoni’s form – or the lack of it.

India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Khaleel Ahmed, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

The visitors might consider bringing in Sunil Ambris – a dasher like Jermaine Blackwood – at the top of the order in place of either Powell or Hemraj. On the bowling front, they might swap left-arm spin-bowling allrounder Fabien Allen with the more experienced Devendra Bishoo.

West Indies 1 Chandrapaul Hemraj/Sunil Ambris, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmeyer, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Jason Holder (capt.), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Keemo Paul, 10 Devendra Bishoo/Fabien Allen 11 Kemar Roach (Excerpts from ESPNcricinfo)

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