The excitement from the pulsating first T20I between India and West Indies is yet to die down and further thrillers lie in store, as the action moves to Thiruvananthapuram for the penultimate clash of the three-match series.
A masterclass in chasing from skipper Virat Kohli saw the hosts take the early lead in the series after they pulled off their second-highest successful run-chase in the format on Friday.
It was a game which saw 416 runs scored at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad while a total of 27 sixes were smashed by both sides in a befitting series opener.
If the evidence from the first T20I is anything to go by, spectators in Thiruvananthapuram could be in for a treat on Sunday.
Windies mean business
While they might be the reigning world champions, West Indies have not quite had their way in bilateral T20I action in recent times. Since the turn of 2018, the Caribbean side have only managed to win one series out of a possible seven with the sole victory coming over lowly Bangladesh at the end of last year.
However, a string of changes in the last few months which includes bringing back former coach Phil Simmons and appointing Kieron Pollard as the new limited-overs skipper has reinvigorated the Men in Maroon.
Add to it a bunch of fresh faces who impressed in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and suddenly the Windies are looking like world-beaters once again. Despite the defeat in the series opener, they showed a completely fearless approach and were only undone by a sublime display of individual brilliance by Kohli.
IPL auction adds to the spectacle
With the IPL auction for the 2020 edition just days away, plenty of Windies stars have a point to prove as they look to get themselves into the good books of the eight franchises. It was evident in the first T20I displays of Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer – two players who were released by their respective franchises ahead of the auction.
While Lewis smashed a 17-ball 40, Hetmyer showed why he is still such hot property in the shortest format by registering a quick-fire half-century. Even the new stars to emerge from the CPL – Brandon King and Khary Pierre – showed patches of brilliance and will no doubt want to make a big statement in order to garner the requisite attention.
With only a limited shop-window available for them to showcase their wares, the added incentive for the visitors will only serve to spice up the action for the remainder of the series.
What approach will India take?
What. A. Player.— ICC (@ICC) December 6, 2019
Is there anyone better in a T20 run-chase than this man? pic.twitter.com/kiZLnNHwdB
Ahead of next year’s T20I World Cup, skipper Kohli and the team management want India to step out from their comfort zone.
But, there is now no denying that their strength lies in chasing targets.
The Men in Blue did mix things up in recent home series against South Africa and Bangladesh, and the results while batting first have been less than satisfactory. They opted to bat first in the final T20 against the Proteas but fell to a tame nine-wicket defeat and the result was the same when Bangladesh put the hosts in to bat in the series opener in New Delhi.
The only time India managed to attain a victory while batting first was in the series decider against Bangladesh in Nagpur. Those results might have had a bearing in Kohli’s decision to bowl first in Friday’s clash against Windies with the India star not wanting to leave anything to chance.
However, with a series lead now in the bag, the Indians might be more inclined to continue their experimentation phase when the second T20I gets underway. The visitors, on the other hand, will definitely look to make India bat first should skipper Kieron Pollard win the toss.
Hosts look to make amends for fielding woes
For a side which has made rapid strides under Kohli in the fielding department, India’s performance in the outfield in Hyderabad was nothing short of abysmal. The hosts spilled as many as five catches during the Windies innings with Washington Sundar accounting for two of them alone.
Opener KL Rahul later blamed the low floodlights at the stadium as the reason for India’s sloppy fielding display and whether that was indeed the cause is any one’s guess. Even Kohli, a skipper who demands the highest of standards on the outfield, was guilty of a couple of misfields which resulted in boundaries.
Worryingly, India’s dropping fielding standards is a trend which was also seen in the Bangladesh series. As such, Kohli will want his men to put things right in Thiruvananthapuram as India look to seal a series victory as well as an eighth-consecutive T20I win over the Windies.
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