Confident India will start as favourites against hosts West Indies in the third game of the ongoing five—match ODI series in Antigua on Friday. The visitors have a great chance of taking an unassailable 2-0 lead against a relatively weak and inexperienced West Indies who struggled to put much fight in the second ODI between the two teams.
Virat Kohli's men showed their might in the second game with a 105-run drubbing of the hosts, which highlighted the gulf between the two teams. The opening match of the series was rained off after only 39 overs of play at the Queen’s Park Oval.
In the second match, the bowlers stifled the home steam with their impeccable line and length after India’s top three batsmen — Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli — delivered the goods as they recorded their biggest ever victory in the West Indies.
Rahane smashed his third ODI hundred, while Kohli and Dhawan notched up fluent half centuries, as India produced a dominating batting display to pile on 310 for five.
The trio would look to continue in the same vein even as veterans like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh would hope for a good hit in the middle.
The presence of young all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav gives the visiting side’s batting solidity, and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s ability with the bat is well-documented.
In the bowling department, Bhuvnehswar Kumar and Umesh Yadav will again lead the attack with Pandya coming in as first change, while the spin responsibility is likely to be shouldered by Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav.
Yadav, a chinaman bowler, was impressive in the second ODI, returning figures of three for 50 in nine overs and earning accolades from skipper Kohli.
For a change, Yuvraj too rolled his arms over after a while, and it remains to be seen whether the team management opts for an extra slow bowler in Ravindra Jadeja.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was miserly, claiming two wickets while giving away just nine runs in his five overs.
Besides the usual practice sessions, the likes of Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhawan, and Pandya looked happy while sweating it out in the gym ahead of the match.
Though they are playing a weak and inexperienced opposition, it is important from India’s perspective to finish the series on a positive note ahead of the tougher tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa in the future.
Trailing 0-1 in the series, the West Indies have brought in two fresh faces — Kyle Hope and Sunil Ambris — for the remaining three ODIs.
Hope and Ambris replaced Jonathan Carter and Kesrick Williams in the 13-man squad.
Hope, the brother of current West Indies wicketkeeper Shai Hope, leads Trinidad and Tobago in domestic cricket while Ambris plays as a wicketkeeper—batsman for the Windward Islands.
The home team would hope the new additions bring about a change in fortunes.
While the Indian batsmen looked comfortable in the 39.2 overs of play that was possible in the first ODI, the West Indies were no match for the visitors in the second match.
Having failed for the first time to qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy, West Indies would be desperate to turn the tide at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Rishabh Pant
West Indies: Jason Holder (Captain), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell.
Match starts at 6.30 pm IST.
(With PTI Inputs)