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[Cricket] West Indies T20I Series – India Eye First Series Win Against T20 Specialists Since 2011

West Indies’ tour of India enters its final leg with the three-match Twenty20 International series following a convincing series victory for the hosts in the ODI’s, where a dogged Windies flattered to deceive. Rohit Sharma-led India will look for a shutout as the rather longish tour wraps up starting with the 1st T20I on Sunday November 4th in Kolkata. Sharma leads in absence of the national team’s regular skipper Virat Kohli, who has been rested and will return to for the tour of Australia. Among the big names, former Indian captain MS Dhoni has been left out of the T20I squad while youngsters like Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar and Rishabh Pant have been included in the side.

The ODI series, to everybody’s surprise, was more closely fought until the 4th game in Mumbai, as the visitors lost rhythm and failed to make a comeback in the two remaining ODIs. The hosts were clinical as they didn’t allow Windies reprieve after a scare in the 3rd at Pune. The visitors, after incurring a disappointment in the Test series, did punch above their weight to challenge India in the first half of the series.

T20I Series Schedule
First T20: November 4th, Kolkata
Second T20: November 6th, Lucknow
Third T20: November 11th, Chennai

However, the T20I series is expected to be evenly contested as the Windies will bank heavily on their returning T20 stalwarts with ample IPL experience to give the hosts a scare. Specialists like Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell adding firepower to their armoury amongst others.

Of the eight games played between the two since 2009, the Windies have the upper hand with 5 wins to India’s 2. There was 1 No Result.

Squads
India: Rohit Sharma(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, K Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem
Windies: Carlos Brathwaite(c), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Sherfane Rutherford, Oshane Thomas, Khary Pierre, Obed McCoy, Rovman Powell, Nicholas Pooran

India will be riding high on confidence, especially after crushing the Windies in the final ODI at Thiruvananthapuram by nine wickets. But the new look India squad have a lot to prove. With youth as its crux, the management have begun to look for answers to the life-after-MS Dhoni question more seriously now with an eye on the 2020 World T20, possibly even the post-2019 scenario. The former India captain does not feature in the T20I squads for both the Windies as well as the series in Australia that follows almost immediately. Perhaps the two back-to-back series has prompted the move. For now at least, Rishabh Pant has already grabbed the Test spot in Wriddhiman Saha’s absence and has also been included in the ODI set-up alongside Dhoni. T20I series rank lowest in priority at the moment, and the two lined up couldn’t have been better timed for Pant’s initiation into the full-time wicketkeeper-batsman role and not just a backup. While the talking point has been the omission of MS Dhoni, paving the way for the inclusion of Rishabh Pant, youngster Washington Sundar returns to the side along with uncapped Krunal Pandya and Shahbaz Nadeem.

According to Kohli, his former skipper Dhoni had decided not to play as he wanted to make way for promising rookie Rishabh Pant. But talk is that the former India captain, who led India to their only T20 World Cup win in 2007, is being phased out owing to his poor run since the turn of the year. The 37-year-old veteran, who also led India to 50-over World cup glory in 2011, has eked out only 245 runs at 27.22 in 17 matches in 2018 so far. Only Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi have appeared in more T20 international matches than Dhoni.

The Windies, one of the best teams in the shortest format of the game, and the only team on the planet to win the ICC WT20 twice haven’t exactly had an ideal run in 2018. Losing the series in New Zealand and Pakistan by hefty margins, before conceding their early lead to lose the three-match series against Bangladesh at home as well. Windies’ only other win in the format this calendar year has been a one-off charity game against ICC World XI. They have announced an inexperienced side that has no place for veterans like Sunil Narine and Chris Gayle but will see the return of a few familiar faces. Players like Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Darren Bravo, who have had some memorable moments in the Indian Premier League, will return after a long gap stretching back two due to conflicts with the cricket board while the likes of Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle have missed the flight. With time running out for the arrival of the World Cup 2019 in England, these players will definitely be disappointed with missing a chance to cement their spot in the squad.

The Windies will also have a change at the helm with Carlos Brathwaite captaining the side. Brathwaite will be looking forward to walking out on the same ground where his four successive sixes in the final over helped the Windies clinch the World T20 crown in 2016. The influx of youth in the squad stands out though. The T20I side features as many as five uncapped players, three of whom – all-rounder Fabian Allen, pacers Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy – also made their ODI debuts earlier on this tour. While there have been a variety of reasons for this – the absence of the stalwarts and some late withdrawals through injury or otherwise – Cricket Windies have been very clear about where the team is heading.

Records That Can Be Broken This Series
– Rohit Sharma in quest of most T20I runs – A golden opportunity awaits Rohit Sharma as he can become the highest run scorer in the shortest version of the game during the series. Rohit currently sits at the fifth position in the list of most T20I runs. He needs only 185 runs to topple Martin Guptill, the highest run scorer in T20Is, to lead the batting charts. Rohit has 2086 runs in 84 games for India at an impressive strike rate of 137. With the kind of form that he currently fancies, it shouldn’t be a tough ask for the opener to achieve the elusive feat
– Shikhar Dhawan nears 1000 T20I runs – In 40 games for India, Dhawan has scored 977 runs at a decent strike-rate of 130. It will be an icing on the cake for Shikhar if he gets back among runs to re-establish his form from the Asia Cup. He is just 23 runs away from reaching to the milestone of 1000 T20 runs in International cricket for the men in blue
– Bumrah inches closer to 50 T20I wickets – He needs only seven wickets to become only the second Indian to claim the feat of 50 wickets in T20Is. If the 24-year old can achieve the milestone in the three-match series, he will become the fastest Indian to reach the landmark after R. Ashwin.
– Rohit Sharma just 11 short of 100 T20I sixes – Martin Guptill and Chris Gayle are the only two players to hit more than 100 sixes in T20Is. His attacking skills might come in handy for him to get to this feat in these three games against West Indies
– India might eye first T20 series win over West Indies since 2011 – India would want to win their first major T20I series against West Indies since their last win in 2011. The dice will be in India’s court as they would look to carry on the momentum from the ODI series and begin on a positive note. This will also be first T20I series organized in the sub-continent between the two sides

Reasons Windies Might Dominate The Series
IPL experience with the Windies players – A plethora of Windies players of the T20 squad like Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians), Carlos Brathwaite (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Andre Russell (Kolkata Knight Riders) and others have played in the cash-rich T20 league. India needs to be wary of this as top Indian bowlers Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav have been taken to the cleaners by the Caribbean batsmen.
India’s past record against Windies – India could not defeat the Windies in the last four encounters with Brathwaite’s men winning three and the fourth ending without any result. In fact, Windies ended the home team’s WT20 campaign in 2016 by defeating them in the semi-final. The last time these two teams faced off, was on 9th July 2017, where Kohli’s men set a target of 191 for the home side. Evin Lewis’ 125* (62) blew away the mighty Indian bowling attack as the world champions won the match with nine wickets in hand.
Match-winners in T20 format – Having a closer look at the West Indies T20 squad, the cricket fans will recognize the key difference between the two sides. The skipper of the Windies team, Carlos Brathwaite won them the ICC T20 World Cup by miraculously striking Ben Stokes for 4 consecutive sixes in the last over. Andre Russell’s IPL performances for Kolkata Knight Riders have elevated the West Indian to the position of the best all-rounder in the T20 format. Kieron Pollard, though out of form currently, can swing the game in his team’s favour from any situation. Shimron Hetmyer’s big-hitting and Darren Bravo’s stability complete the world’s most destructive batting order.

On the other side, the Indian team has only Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul who can be considered match winners in the shortest format. Introducing Rishabh Pant may increase India’s chances but Hardik Pandya’s injury, added to MS Dhoni’s absence in the team, could neutralize the Rishabh Pant factor.

India will have their work cut out for them especially having failed to overcome Brathwaite’s men in their last four encounters. The Windies even ended India’s campaign in the 2016 T20I World Cup, defeating them in the semi-finals. By giving opportunities to youngsters, the hosts will love to see the future of Indian cricket express themselves in the best possible manner at the world stage.

Can the explosive Windies walk away with something from the tour?

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