Windies on the rise with much to ponder for Kohli and Co.

The three ODIs so far have literally been a clash between Virat Kohli - the batsman - and the Windies team with India's middle order misfiring thus far.

MS Dhoni has scored only 27 runs in the two outings with the bat in this series.   -  Prashant Nakwe

The Indian team management had said that the ODI series against the West Indies will be a good preparation before heading to the 2019 World Cup.

However, so far, it has literally been a clash between Virat Kohli - the batsman - and the Windies team. The skipper, who scored three back-to-back centuries, has been let down by the misfiring middle-order.

Coming into the fourth fixture, at the Brabourne Stadium on Monday, Kohli will hope that the middle-order batsmen have learnt from their mistakes after a below par evening in Pune.

Trying to reap the benefits of a ‘pace-friendly’ track in Pune, India went with five bowlers, bringing in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. Even though the latter took a four-for, Bhuvneshwar leaked runs in the end to make things tough for the host.

With two matches to go, India has plenty to ponder about. While the middle-order remains the biggest worry, the fact that the pacers have been far from effective is also a matter of concern.

The return of Kedar Jadhav from injury could help the team in the remaining matches. The Pune-based cricketer, who was included in the side at the last moment, gives the much-required depth in both the batting and bowling departments.

After going down in the third ODI, Kohli admitted that the side will ‘always drift’ if there is no balance. And keeping that in mind, it will be a litmus test for the middle-order, especially for Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Dhoni has been completely off-colour and with just 15 ODIs remaining before the World Cup next year, time is running out fast for the former captain. Having lost his place in the T20 squad both for the Windies and Australia series, Dhoni needs to score big in the limited opportunities to count himself in.

It is a similar story for Ambati Rayudu. The middle-order batter got off to a good start in Pune but failed to convert it.

At a time when Dhoni, Rayudu and Rishabh Pant have not been able to shine with the bat, Jadhav’s return would certainly be a big boost for the side. Even though his fitness issues have been a concern in the past, he bounced back in style in the Deodhar Trophy, which eventually earned him a call-up to the national side. While he can be effective with the bat in the middle overs, his off-spin would also come in handy.

With the Brabourne Stadium pitch likely to be full of runs, it would be interesting to see how the frontline spinners — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – tackle the Windies batters who seem to have found their mojo.

The visiting side, which has levelled the series, has been riding on stumper-batsman Shai Hope’s form. Hope, who hammered a 123 in Visakhapatnam to help the team earn a tie, produced a brilliant 95 in Pune.

The experienced Marlon Samuels shone with the ball in the third ODI, scalping three wickets, but is still struggling with the bat. It would be a good time for him to step up. Captain Jason Holder would also be wanting to make a match-winning contribution.

In Pune, Ashley Nurse troubled the Indian batters with his off-spin and as the visiting side aims to take the lead in the series, he will be hoping to continue in the same vein.

With the series evenly poised, both sides have the same goal — clinch the tie in Mumbai and head to Thiruvananthapuram brimming with confidence as well as a 2-1 advantage.

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