Opting to provide World Cup hopefuls with ample opportunities, skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli once again decided to sit out the match. While the result was convincing, India still appear to be far from achieving the ideal balance.
As it happened: India vs West Indies, 3rd ODI
Shubman Gill, who had been relatively subdued during the Caribbean tour, finally found his groove in the third ODI, delivering a commanding 85 off 92 balls. His scintillating opening partnership of 143 runs with the in-form Ishan Kishan (77 off 64 balls) set the stage for India’s formidable total of 351 for 5 after being put into bat.
While the top-order exhibited their prowess, the middle-order also made strong cases for their inclusion. Sanju Samson’s composed innings of 51 off 41 balls showcased his talent as a reserve middle-order batter. His innings included four lusty sixes, with three coming off the leg-spin of Yannic Cariah, demonstrating his ability to play glorious inside-out shots.
However, as has been Samson’s bane, he once again fell short of converting his promising start into a substantial score. Consistency remains the key for the talented wicketkeeper-batsman as he vies for the No. 4 slot in case Shreyas Iyer’s fitness concerns persist heading into the World Cup.
Suryakumar Yadav, another promising middle-order prospect, showcased his natural flair during his knock of 35. His customary pick-up shot for a six behind square and a slashed six off Jayden Seals hinted at his ability to change gears effortlessly. However, he, too, missed out on capitalising on the opportunity to leave a lasting impression.
On the other hand, skipper Hardik Pandya, leading from the front, stamped his authority with a dazzling display of power hitting. His picturesque off-drive and a soaring straight six off Cariah left fans in awe. Accompanied by Suryakumar, the duo stitched together a crucial partnership of 65 runs in 8.1 overs for the fifth wicket. While Pandya’s innings of 70 not out off 52 balls showcased his undoubted talent, he’ll need to maintain such performances consistently to secure his place in the playing XI.
The West Indies’ pursuit of India’s mammoth target was shattered early in the innings, thanks to an incisive three-wicket burst by the impressive Mukesh Kumar during the first Powerplay. His quality seam bowling dashed West Indies’ hopes as they were skittled out for a mere 151 runs in just 35.3 overs.
Joining the wicket-taking brigade were Shardul Thakur (4/37 in 6.3 overs), Jaydev Unadkat (1/16 in 5 overs), and Kuldeep Yadav (2/25 in 8 overs), who all contributed significantly to the lopsided contest. While the bowling unit showcased its depth and talent, the exclusion of Yuzvendra Chahal from the playing XI raised some eyebrows.
With the World Cup fast approaching, there are only limited opportunities left to finalise the squad and iron out any lingering issues. The selectors and team management will have to make some tough calls, especially when it comes to the bowling department and the middle-order batting positions.
Ravindra Jadeja‘s inclusion as the first-choice spinner seems inevitable, leaving little room for Axar Patel in the playing XI. Additionally, Mukesh Kumar, despite his impressive performances, may have to contend with a spot among the stand-bys if Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Shardul Thakur occupy the fast-bowling slots in the 15-member squad.
The fifth seamer’s spot demands a left-armer with variation, and while Jaydev Unadkat has shown promise, his limitations have been a topic of debate. Whether the team management opts to persist with him or explores other alternatives will be a critical decision.
On the batting front, the opening combination seems reasonably settled with captain Rohit and Gill. However, if Rahul is not fit, the team will face a tough dilemma regarding Ishan Kishan’s batting position. Given Rohit’s preference for the opening spot, slotting Kishan in the middle-order at No. 4 or 5 could be challenging, and expectations for him to perform immediately may not be fair.
(With inputs from PTI)