Tons of speculations have come from experts who feel that India didn’t get its bowling combination right in the first One-Day International in Chennai when they failed to stop West Indies in getting through with a perfect chase.
To keep the three-match ODI series alive, the home side will have to set their playing XI according to the conditions of the ground on Wednesday (December 18) when they take on the buoyant tourists in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam.
A series win in India would certainly raise Kieron Pollard’s profile from a T20 freelancer to an able leader but a blinder from Rohit Sharma or another hundred from skipper Virat Kohli on a batting belter cant be ruled out.
Indian bowlers didn’t fail the team completely but not being able to defend a 287-run target on a slow MA Chidambaram track left the management with a few points to look at.
The fact that the hosts were unable to tie the West Indies batsmen brings back the focus to India’s ongoing crisis of the top-order not being able to put runs on the scoreboard when put to bat first.
Meanwhile, after losing the first ODI, skipper Virat Kohli blamed the conditions of the pitch.
“We thought six bowling options will be good enough, specially with the pitch being slow and Kedar as an option…I think the ball wasnt holding enough for the fast bowlers,” Kohli had said after the loss.
With the par-score at the ACA-VDCA Stadium in Vizag set to be in the 320-plus range, a fifth specialist bowling option could be mulled upon considering the plight the hosts faced in the last game with Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope beautifully planning the chase with their respective hundreds.
The biggest reason for the setback in Chennai was spinners Ravindra Jadeja (0/58 in 10 overs) and Kuldeep Yadav (0/45 in 10 overs) being rendered ineffective.
Hope and Hetmyer didn’t murder the attack but did enough during the middle overs to ensure 103 runs came without taking any adventurous route. They chose their bowlers perfectly and as a result, debutant Shivam Dube leaked 68 runs in 7.5 overs, indicating that he is certainly a “work in progress” as far as his bowling is concerned.
However, it’s a tricky path for India to tweak their playing XI considering what exactly they have in their reserves. They have Mayank Agarwal, the reserve opener, who is unlikely to get a chance as Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul are set at the top.
Then they have Manish Pandey, the reserve middle-order batsman, who can only be replaced at No 6 in place of Jadhav, however, he didn’t do anything wrong in Chennai, scoring 40 off 33 balls with his typical chip and charge game.
The questions that people are raising is about Jadhav not being given another go after he was hit for 11 in his solitary over.
On a Chennai track, if he couldn’t be risked for a second over, what will happen on a batting-friendly Visakhapatnam pitch where he could be hit through the line easily.
So will Pandey, with a better range of strokes, be an option instead of Jadhav? If that’s the case then they will have to go for a specialist fifth bowler — either seamer Shardul Thakur or leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
In case India go for either of the two, then the axe may fall on one of the two all-rounders, Dube or Ravindra Jadeja.
Dube was sent to bat at No.8 in the last game and might not get to bat here irrespective of whether India bat first or second.
In that case, Shardul could be an option as Jadejas experience in all departments is a necessity.
However, it is a well-known fact that Jadeja struggles on good batting surfaces which creates a case for Chahal’s conventional leg-breaks.
For the West Indies, Hetmyer has undoubtedly been one of their key performers and getting his wicket will be the key for the Indian team.
West Indies pacers were also on the money as Sheldon Cotterell and a fit-again Alzarri Joseph did a good job both at the beginning and the back-end of the Indian innings.
Keemo Paul also did his bit and the West Indies pace attack could be lauded for using a lot of variations including the slower deliveries to good effect.
But on a true pitch like Visakhapatnam, it will be a different challenge for the pace troika.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, Mohammed Shami, Deepak Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mayank Agarwal, Shardul Thakur, Manish Pandey.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (captain), Sunil Ambris, Shai Hope, Khary Pierre, Roston Chase, Alzarri Joseph, Kieron Pollard (Captain), Sheldon Cottrell, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Romario Shepherd, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.
(With inputs from agencies)