…West Indies v India, 4th ODI, Antigua
By Sidharth Monga
(ESPNcricinfo) West Indies must feel this is just a surreal nightmare. They are playing in the rainy season and at 9am in front of no crowds to adjust to the opposition’s schedule and to finish at least half the match before the opposition fans go to sleep. In the first half they try their best, flailing their limbs, trying to wake up from the nightmare, trying to bowl with discipline, and then when seemingly nobody is watching – little live crowd, little TV following in India – they slip back to the nightmare, with their inexperienced batting letting them down.
Friday was their best chance to put one past India – they had got the first use of a damp pitch and had taken two early wickets – but they seem almost scared of aiming too high. If you looked at the fields and the kind of bowling West Indies employed, you wouldn’t guess it was a difficult pitch to bat on. They have now not won an ODI series in three years, and are playing like it.
India, on the other hand, are enjoying a dream. Pristine islands, no crowd to haunt them for selfies, a small press contingent, an easy opposition, and their internal troubles far far away for the moment. The only dilemma they might be grappling with is when to give Rishabh Pant a go. They have avoided adventure on the field so far, but if they don’t try out Pant, now that they can’t lose the series, this trip will be wasted. India need to keep giving the youngsters game time to stay prepared for the contingency of realising in early 2019 that one of their two middle-order giants can’t make it to the World Cup. The other, smaller question will be if they should allow Kedar Jadhav more batting responsibility higher up in the order and test him for a bigger role.
It’s like wine, MS Dhoni said, referring to getting better with age, after he had converted a slow start into a near run-a-ball 78 and had given India a match-winning total. However, he is an uncorked wine; at this age – 35 now, 37 during the next World Cup – Dhoni will know he is as good as his last couple of innings. The good thing is, his keeping has shown no signs of deterioration and he was back to providing running commentary as he kept wicket in the third ODI. He will need all this in the coming two years if he is to make it to the 2019 World Cup.
Jason Holder has an unenviable task of leading an inexperienced West Indies side, and he tried to do the noble thing of leading from the front. However, he might perhaps be better off being a little more practical and not bowl himself at the death. In the last two ODIs, he has been targeted by India. In Port-of-Spain he had to be taken off after he bowled three beamers – one of them was so slow Dhoni pulled it. His 4.5 overs at the death in the last two matches have cost 65 runs.
West Indies made three changes in the last match. None of the newcomers did awfully. Kesrick Williams had an impressive debut, bowling five overs in the last nine. It might just help them to stick with the same players for a while. The only question will be if they want Alzarri Joseph back.
West Indies (probable): 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Kyle Hope, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Jason Mohammed, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Jason Holder (capt.), 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Kesrick Williams, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Miguel Cummins,
Will either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik get a chance now that India can’t lose the series? Is there scope to try Ravindra Jadeja again?
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Yuvraj Singh/Rishabh Pant, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
The previous ODI in North Sound was played on a damp pitch, which explains the low scores, but this one should be better to bat on.
Stats and trivia
- MS Dhoni is now behind only Kumar Sangakkara for ODI runs as a wicketkeeper.
- West Indies have lost 10 and won two ODIs in North Sound.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo