India vs West Indies: Windies' chance to settle scores in familiar format

A confident Windies team, having levelled the three-match series against India, will take the field at Mumbai’s Wankhade Stadium for the third T20I.

Lendl Simmons seems to reserve something special for India.   -  AP

After winning its second World T20 within four years in 2016, the West Indies’ slide has been spectacular. Almost as spectacular as some of the strokes its fearless batsmen have been producing around the world in franchise cricket.

Getting sandwiched between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, for the 10th place in the ICC rankings, isn’t something the men in maroon may have anticipated when Carlos Brathwaite smashed those four astonishing sixes to win the 2016 World T20 final against England at the Eden Gardens.

Since then, they have played 15 bilateral series and lost nine of them, including the last to Afghanistan in Lucknow last month. They were very much expected to lose the 16th one as well. But, after being outplayed in the opening match of the three-match series against India, they have bounced back.

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One shouldn’t read too much into Sunday night’s eight-wicket victory against India at the Greenfield Stadium here. But for the West Indies, it was a desperately-needed result, with its title defence at the T20 World Cup scheduled to begin in Australia in 10 months. Sometimes, all you need is a commanding win against a quality side such as Virat Kohli’s, to start dreaming afresh.

It surely will be a confident Windies team that will take the field at Mumbai’s Wankhade Stadium for the third T20I on Wednesday. For captain Kieron Pollard, it will be a kind of homecoming too, as he returns to the Mumbai Indians’ IPL base.

Personal positive

The win against India must be a huge positive personally for the hard-hitting all-rounder. He loves to be in charge, relishes a chance to take more responsibility and be involved with the game as much as possible.

He was handed the West Indies’ limited-overs captaincy only last September, after the Jason Holder-led team’s poor showing at the World Cup in England. He hadn’t made the squad then.

He could put that disappointment behind him. He could instead reflect happily on how his teammates, especially those at the top of the order, have responded to the Indian challenge. Like Lendl Simmons, who seems to reserve something special for India.

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Three years after knocking India out in the World T20 semifinal in Mumbai with a 51-ball 82 not out, he anchored smartly the West Indies chase here on Sunday night, opening the innings. His fellow-opener Evin Lewis has made 40 in both the innings and showed why he has two hundreds in T20I.

Two other left-handers Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, from whom both the Windies expect a lot for many years to come, have also looked good. Pooran, who was returning to the squad after serving a four-match suspension for ball-tampering, could close a match in no time, like he did with his cameo here.

Beyond Gayle

Then there is Brandon King, who has had a promising start to his international career. He didn’t need to bat on Sunday, but had impressed in Hyderabad.

It was only last month that he got his maroon cap, against Afghanistan after his sensational show in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL); he had set the record for the highest score with his 72-ball 132 not out for Guyana Amazon Warriors against Barbados Tridents a couple of months ago.

Another player to attract a lot of attention at this year’s CPL was Hayden Walsh, who emerged as the leading wicket-taker. The leg-spinner, who played for the United States before being picked by the West Indies, showed here what he could do even against an experienced Indian batting line-up.

New players like him offer new hopes for the West Indies. It need not be all about Chris Gayle and Andre Russell always.

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