What was supposed to be a muscle flex for India, turned out to be a wakeup call for the team.
India is ranked second best team in ODIs in the world, whereas West Indies comes in at number 9. The slow fall of the West Indies cricket team has been well documented and apparent for the world to see- with nonpayment of players being a big reason for embarrassment of their board.
This has reduced them to the point that the likes of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo might be the last big stars of the game from the Caribbean island; to the point that they have to fight for qualification into the World Cup to be hosted next year.
The situation is similar to the decline of Indian hockey team from the days of Olympic golds to qualification failure. In the face of such an underwhelming enemy, India’s performance in the second and third match was even more so.
India comfortably, and predictably, beat the Windies in the first encounter in Guwahati by 8 wickets to kick off the series.
The second match was much more evenly matched, and hence much more suspenseful. It could have gone either way, and ended up going neither. The draw was the first sign of the hosts fighting back.
Even before anyone could label the draw as a fluke, the Windies erased people’s doubts by handing India its first defeat in the third ODI and levelling the series 1-1, with the Indians falling 47 runs short. This was a situation no one had expected, least of all the Indian selectors who had rested both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the initial ODIs.
They were brought back in the later ODIs which seemed more of a face saving gesture by that point than the planned rest of the frontline bowlers like it was. India did win the last 2 matches in an ego boosting large margin fashion, but the damage had been done.
The two matches displayed a few glaring problems in the Indian team who intend to win the World Cup come July next year. The first and biggest problem is that the team is not final yet. A few player’s presence amongst the playing eleven still hangs in the balance.
The second problem is that these guys are not able to secure their position due to lack of opportunities. Dinesh Kartik, despite being 33, plays as the keeper instead of Rishabh Pant, a promising and more importantly, young talent. Similarly, Shikhar Dhawan averaged 22.4 runs in the series with scores of 4, 29, 35, 38 and 6 in the five matches. The solid nature of his position is beginning to raise doubts in the minds of other aspirants.
What exactly is Dhoni’s role in the team? Do we have 2 genuine all rounders who can on a given day perform with both the bat and the ball. These are the questions that we need to answer before we can think of being a champion.
By Dhruv Malik