India vs West Indies: India aims series victory amid rain threat

While the men in blue chase an eighth straight bilateral ODI series victory and a sixth successive series win at home, West Indies eye to tie the series.

India middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu receives some batting tips from Sanjay Bangar during a practice session at Greenfield International Stadium on Wednesday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Virat Kohli wasn’t there when India practised at the nets at Greenfield Stadium on a humid Wednesday morning.

But, given the kind of form he is in, the Indian captain could just get up from sleep and hit a hundred.

He has been quite a nightmare for the hapless West Indies bowlers, who must be empathising with their England counterparts.

Kohli, who is on a record-breaking spree, would indeed be the main reason behind the huge crowd that is expected for Thursday’s final ODI match. Rohit Sharma is another.

The Mumbai dasher too has been paying scant regard for records and has already scored two big hundreds in the series. But, his captain, with whom he has formed such a fabulous pair, has a century more.

But, despite all those hundreds – plus the one by Ambati Rayudu – West Indies has managed to keep the five-match series alive, though it is trailing 1-2.

The men in maroon have done rather well to make the series a competitive one, notwithstanding the 224-run hammering they received in the last match in Mumbai just a couple of days ago.

After the humiliating defeats inside three days in either Test, it has been a commendable comeback by the Windies in the limited overs format. To score a convincing win and force a tie against this Indian side in these conditions is something they should be proud of.

Jason Holder and his men could be even prouder if they could tie the series score, too. But they may find it difficult to deny the men in blue an eighth straight bilateral ODI series victory. India is also looking at a sixth successive series win at home.

Shikhar Dhawan wouldn’t mind playing a part in that victory: his highest score in the series has been 38. Though the tons of runs scored by Kohli and Rohit have meant India continued to fire at the top of the order, the Delhi opener must be desperate to rediscover his touch, with the World Cup just seven months away.

Rayudu, who has emerged as India’s best bet for the crucial No. 4 slot, meanwhile will be hoping to continue from where he left at the Brabourne Stadium a couple of days ago.

He was seen spending time at the nets, along with his two contenders from Karnataka, K.L. Rahul and Manish Pandey. It would be interesting to see if one of those two gets a chance.

As for the Indian bowlers, they must be keen to repeat their outstanding show in Mumbai, where they dismissed West Indies in just 36.2 overs.

The visiting batsmen would be particularly wary of the swing of rookie Khaleel Ahmed and the wrist spin of Kuldip Yadav, the left-armers who picked up half-a-dozen wickets between them in that match.

West Indies would once again be looking to the talented duo of Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer for runs. Their job would be harder if the top order continues to disappoint. And the bowlers have to be less generous, too.

The city, which is hosting an ODI after 30 years, must be praying the weather gods are generous as well. Multiple weather agencies have forecast rain – one of them has pegged the chances at 80 per cent – thunderstorm and heavy clouds, with the expected arrival of the northeast monsoon.

Last year, around this time, heavy rain had shortened the Twenty20 match against New Zealand into an eight-overs-a-side game.

History, however, need not repeat itself always. If the weather remains like it did for the last couple of days – bright, sunny and humid – there should be some fascinating cricket on a lovely ground that is making its ODI debut.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, M.S. Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, K.L. Rahul, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav.

West Indies: Jason Holder (Capt.), Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope (wk), Marlon Samuels, Shimron Hetmyer, Rovman Powell, Fabian Allen, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Obed McCoy, Oshane Thomas