The India tour of West Indies heads into Trinidad on Tuesday for the final ODI of the scheduled three and out of nowhere we have a deciding match to enjoy after West Indies shocked everyone to level the series in the second game.
India were comfortable winners of the opening match but then paid the price for being a little cocky with their team selection for the second one to allow West Indies to pick up a rare win and ensure there is all to play for at the Brian Lara Stadium.
You have to give full credit to West Indies for bouncing back and winning the second match of the series when you consider how absolutely abject that they were in the opening game. They were so bad that just being competitive in that second match looked like it would be an achievement for the men from the Caribbean so to actually win the game was a fine outcome. They had to battle a bit of adversity in that game too which will bode well for them.
Once again I think the strength of West Indies was with the ball. They had what you would consider to be their strongest available bowling unit out in that second match and when they had their team under pressure they never relented and were rewarded with bowling India out for less than 200. There were one or two stumbles in the run chase but a team who have been declining in this format for so long were never going to win without the odd hiccup so we can certainly forgive them that.
Whether India got complacent or cocky in their team selection for that second match only they will know but to rest a couple of senior players when the series wasn’t won, albeit with a short turnaround and after quite a hectic tour so far, felt unnecessary and they paid the price. There is no guarantee that they would have won with either Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli in the side but to go in without either of them just left their batting far too exposed.
To be fair, that batting didn’t exactly flourish in the opening match even though they got over the line and when you consider that there is a World Cup supposedly less than three months away, you would have thought India would be wanting to play their strongest side and build up some continuity ahead of what is a big tournament for them given that it is being played in their country. It would be a surprise if they make that mistake again but whoever bats for them in this match will need to do it better than it has been done in the series to date.
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West Indies are expected to name an unchanged side having finally come across a team with both balance and form on their side. If there is a change to be made then it could come for Jayden Seales in the form of another spinner.
There is talk coming out of the India camp that with the Asia Cup and World Cup on the horizon India will go in without Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli once again which would beg the question of what they are still doing here in the first place. I find it hard to believe both miss out.
Alzarri Joseph bowled a tremendous spell in that last match where he picked up 2-35 from his seven overs and he is one of those West Indies bowlers who can have the batters in trouble even on slow pitches such is the pace he bowls with and the attacking length that he can find. He doesn’t mind going for runs in the search for wickets either. That makes me think having him onside in some way could be a profitable strategy here.
His performance line looks very low at 20.5. That might be set that way as he isn’t guaranteed to bat but the only way he doesn’t bat is if West Indies are chasing a low total in which case he is likely to have contributed with wickets. He has played in eight ODIs in 2023 and has taken two or more wickets in seven of them and in his last six ODIs against India he has taken two wickets. He also took two wickets against them in a T20 international on this very ground last year so India struggle against him. He can more than hold a bat so we might only need one wicket from him but on the evidence of the form he is more than capable of taking two wickets and covering this total.
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