Kolkata: Clinically in most aspects of the game thus far, India will now hope star batter Virat Kohli also regains form when they take on a struggling West Indies on Friday in the potentially series-defining second T20 International.
The touring West Indies side have been far from their best and have not harassed the hosts in any of their matches so far.
After being outclassed 0-3 in the ODI section in Ahmedabad, the Kieron Pollard-led team was expected to give India a challenge in its favored T20 format, especially after a 3-2 win over England in its last home game .
But they barely managed to harass the hosts in the first T20I here on Wednesday, taking six wickets.
One more win and it will be a third consecutive series win for Rohit Sharma after being appointed the full-time captain of Team India.
The only concern for India was Kohli’s form and he would certainly want a bigger punch than the scores of 8, 18, 0 and 17 so far in the order.
Rohit is confident he would be fine and has asked critics and the media alike to spare him the constant scrutiny.
For his part, Rohit knows the importance of going hard in power play, something that was fully reflected in his 19-ball 40 when he brought Odean Smith to the cleaners in an over that allowed 22 runs.
With Ishan Kishan looking plain and struggling to get going on the other side, Rohit made the bulk of the 58 runs India scored in the power play meaning they never got behind the 158 run chase, despite losing three quick wickets in the middle .
After Rohit came out in the eighth over, Kohli had the perfect opportunity to return between runs and seal the chase. But that wasn’t the case, though Kohli looked fluid in his short 13-ball 17 stay.
On any other day, his inside-out shot would have been a clear cut, but this time he hit the fielder straight.
As for Ishan, the most expensive purchase (Rs 15.25 crore) in the IPL 2022 auction, he was unable to score freely and failed to turn the corner as Rohit looked sublime.
But thanks to Rohit’s innings at the top, things didn’t get much out of India’s reach, as Suryakumar Yadav and Venkatesh Iyer put in a great effort to end the chase.
With India opting for a six-bowler combo with all-rounder Venkatesh, in-form batter Shreyas Iyer had to sit out of the opening game.
It remains to be seen what Rohit’s trick will be in the second T20I, which may seal the series’ fate for India.
“We were very clear to Shreyas, we told him that the team wants that option (of an all-rounder) to go to the World Cup. We need that option in the middle, someone who can bowl,” Rohit said after the game.
“There’s a lot that goes into determining the XI playing, the opposition, the conditions, the size of the pitch. Yes, sometimes it can be hard for the guys to miss something, but we make sure we send a very clear message Unfortunately, we want to put the team first.”
India will also be concerned about the injury of pacer Deepak Chahar, who suffered a blow to his right hand while fielding and was unable to meet his quota.
Looking for their first win of the tour, it would be a match for the Windies.
They would be looking forward to the return of their fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder, who had to sit out from the first T20I after a glitch.
“He was hit in the chest during training and was not ready for the first game and was out as a precaution. We hope he will be back the next game,” said a team official.
For them, the only bright spot on Wednesday was the return of their vice-captain Nicholas Pooran with the bat.
Fresh off his Rs 10.75 crore deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad, the left-handed wicketkeeper batter revived the Windies innings with a 38-ball fifty, which came after opener Kyle Mayers failed to convert his start.
Pooran and a recovered skipper Kieron Pollard stepped up the throttle in the last five overs and scored 61 runs to bring their total to 157/7.
But in the end it turned out to be 15-20 runs less, putting the focus back on their center over the battle where debutant Indian leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi gave the visitors a hard time.
With Holder back at work and Pooran and Pollard starting to look at their foreboding best, West Indies would like to take their chances to keep the series alive.
India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Bishnoi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan Harshal Patel, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Deepak Hooda, Kuldeep Yadav and Harpreet Brar.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (Captain), Nicholas Pooran (Vice Captain), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd , Odean Smith, Kyle Mayers, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Start match: 7 p.m. IST.
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