Hetmyer, Hope, Khaleel – the ODI takeaways

Ambati Rayudu also looks set to hold on to the No 4 spot after the 81-ball 100 in the fourth ODI in Mumbai.

K Khaleel Ahmed celebrates the dismissal of West Indies batsman Jason Holder during the fifth ODI at Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.   -  AP


Whenever a bilateral ODI series against a weaker opponent is on, discussions on the meaninglessness of it are almost inevitable. But the 40,000 crowd at the Greenfield Stadium here on Thursday came for quality cricket.

Of course, they would have wanted a more keenly contested game but even during those three-and-a-half hours, they got to see some superb spells of quality swing and fast bowling, tantalising spin, and some outstanding cricketing shots that didn’t resemble the crude hitting so common in the Twenty20 format. If Jason Holder had asked India to bat first in conditions ideal for bowling, the game could have been worthy of a final.

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Talking of excitement, very few matches of late have had as thrilling a finish as at Visakhapatnam, where the second game was tied. The visitor must have felt disappointed after coming close to chasing down the formidable target of 322 set by the host.

They, however, finally posted their maiden win of the tour — they had lost both the Tests inside three days and the first ODI at Guwahati — when they scored a convincing victory in the third ODI in Pune. Awakened by the rude call, Virat Kohli’s men showed their character in the last two games, winning by 224 runs in Mumbai and by nine wickets here.

More than the result of the series, the team management must be pleased at the way the series helped fine-tune the preparations for the World Cup in England in 2019.

The rapid strides Ambati Rayudu made at No. 4 and the bowling of Khaleel Ahmed and Ravindra Jadeja were a big plus. The mountain of runs scored by Kohli and Rohit Sharma may not have come as a surprise, but a rock-solid top-order is a good cushion to have when preparing for a global tournament.

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“I think the series has been extremely useful for India; the team seems to have covered a few areas,” former Indian opener V.B. Chandrasekhar, who commentated on the entire series, told Sportstar. “I believe Rayudu has solved the No. 4 issue.”

He said Khaleel was another major gain for India. “I see him playing in the World Cup,” said Chandrasekhar. “He may not be that quick, but he showed what he could achieve by moving the ball around in Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram, in conditions similar to those in England.”

He added that Khaleel could be a bright option for India. “He is one of those wicket-taking bowlers, like Jasprit Bumrah,” he said. “And Jadeja’s performance in the series also augurs well for India. He could be useful in making the tail shorter, though Hardik Pandya is also there to perform the all-rounder’s role.”

West Indies, on the other hand, can take heart from the performances of some of its players who could be crucial to its World Cup campaign.

The way Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer batted in the unfamiliar conditions of the sub-continent was admirable.

Former West Indies captain Darren Ganga felt the touring side would have done better if it had more time for acclimatisation. “One practice game is just not enough, especially when many players of this team have had no experience of India,” he said. “And West Indies was up against an Indian team that was very strong and experienced.”

Chandrasekhar is convinced this young Windies squad has great potential. “In a way, it is good that the oldies didn’t turn up,” he said. “Hope, Hetmyer – he has to tighten his technique – Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy are all fine players. Mark my words, if they sort out their local problems, this West Indies side could become a very strong side in two years.”

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