The show must go on. An agonising defeat in the semi-final at the World Cup against eventual runners-up New Zealand is still ripe in India’s memory. But the show must go on.
They now travel to the West Indies to play a full series which will include 3 T20Is and as many ODIs besides 2 Test matches.
The series will kickstart with T20Is, the first two of which will be played at Lauderhill in Florida. The shortest format of the game is something which West Indies thrive in and are also the current world champions. With the World T20 looming, India have included a couple of young guns but have retained the core of the side which will be led by the incumbent Virat Kohli.
For almost half a decade running, India’s biggest strength lies in their seasoned top-order. The return of Shikhar Dhawan will only bolster it further and with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in good nick, West Indies bowlers have their work cut out.
Although both teams stand locked at 5-5 in the head-to-head record, Kohli’s troops whitewashed West Indies 3-0 at home when they toured India last year so they will carry that confidence into this series.
With MS Dhoni unavailable for this series, the decks have been cleared for Rishabh Pant to make an impact in the series. He will be keen to not only express himself with the bat but also do a neat job behind the stumps.
India have picked two uncapped players in Rahul Chahar and Navdeep Saini, both of whom had a great season in the IPL. Chahar, in particular, has the opportunity to replicate those performances in international cricket in the absence of Yuzvendra Chahal, who has been rested for this series.
India’s death bowling is a concern in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, who got a well-deserved rest after a gruelling World Cup. With Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav also rested, the spin contingent – Sundar, Chahar and Krunal Pandya – have only played 17 T20Is collectively and are thin on experience.
The absence of Dhoni and Hardik Pandya leaves a hole in the middle order. Because Hardik plays a dual role with both bat and ball, the visitors will struggle to find the right balance to their XI.
India will also have to identify players who could up the ante and finish strongly towards the end of the innings. They will bank on Manish Pandey to do the job for them. Will he deliver? Only time will tell.
Reigning champions West Indies have always challenged India in the shortest format of the game. In Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Andre Russell and Nicholas Pooran, the hosts have enough firepower in their armoury to make merry against a second-string Indian bowling attack.
The likes of Oshane Thomas and Sheldon Cottrell have the ability to trouble the much-famed India’s top 3 which could expose their rickety middle-order.
Despite having had a much superior World Cup than their counterparts, India will have to play really well to win their first T20I series in the West Indies since 2011.
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