India’s winning streak continues

Virat Kohli... the Man of the Series had a great run with the bat.-K.R. DEEPAK

India’s successful run, more than anything else, will raise Indian fans’ hopes as the team prepares for a gruelling 15-month schedule ahead. This period includes tours to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, in addition to two World Cups. By Priyansh.

Six successive ODI series wins for India but the celebration was markedly muted. The latest conquest, a 2-1 victory over West Indies, was achieved by ambling past the finishing line rather than a furious sprint. But the success hardly evoked raucous revelry.

For the second time in as many months, there were questions about the significance of such ODI contests. Australia was beaten 3-2 by the host — two matches were abandoned due to rain — but not many were convinced by the idea of playing a seven-match series. In West Indies’ case, greater machinations were at play.

An antagonised BCCI decided to reduce the length of India’s coming tour of South Africa. To justify its decision, the sport’s governing body in the country looked for a willing opponent to fill the gap created in the calendar. West Indies was more than happy to meet the request, for much fanfare and publicity awaited the visiting side.

The hysteria around Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement pushed everything around it into insignificance. West Indies did itself no favours by losing the Test series within six days, but the local cricketing fraternity didn’t complain. For it allowed the focus to squarely remain on one man.

The hurried planning seemed to have caught the West Indies out. Hence, the arrival of the ODI series brought no expectations of excellence from Dwayne Bravo’s men, neither were they welcome guests anymore. Well, they were here to attend Tendulkar’s retirement function, weren’t they? Then why stay longer?

It was under the cloud of clumsiness that West Indies began the ODI leg of its trip. Hence, in hindsight, the visitor did well enough to take the series to a decider.

Yet, the threat posed by Dwayne’s side was never taken too seriously. The assumption remained that India’s batting unit was formidable enough to cover whatever deficiencies may lie within the team. And so it proved.

The script of the first ODI read like an abridged version of the story read aloud during the Tests. Batting first, West Indies was 142 for three at the end of 27 overs. However, once again, the side’s innings crumbled to leave India the small task of overhauling 212. The chore was completed with 88 balls remaining. Perhaps, the only noteworthy point to emerge from that match was yet another milestone for Virat Kohli. The 25-year-old equalled Vivian Richards’ record of being the fastest to reach 5,000 ODI runs (114 innings). With Kohli scaling one peak after another within such a short time, it’s all getting a bit boring, isn’t it?

Perhaps, there can’t be a bigger compliment to India’s premier batsman in the limited overs format. Kohli’s 86 in the first match was followed by a 99 in the next, a brilliant Jason Holder catch denying the batsman his 18th ODI hundred.

But for once, the Indian batsman didn’t make the headlines. For West Indies delivered its best performance of the tour. Chasing 289, the visitor won by two wickets thanks to four half-centuries by its batsmen. Darren Sammy had been much criticised for the manner of his dismissals during the Tests but he displayed an impressive calmness to steer the side home.

Despite the success, there were signs of fragility in the West Indies batting line-up. Wickets were lost as the Carribean side neared the target to suggest that nerves could still get the better of the team but Sammy somehow pulled through.

Another slight worry was the inability of the rest of the half-century makers to last until the victory was secured. Dwayne, though, was left more disturbed by the batsmen who couldn’t even get a start.

In the decider, held in a chaotic atmosphere at the Green Park in Kanpur, West Indies needed a similar effort. Three fifties arrived, but the one that didn’t perhaps made all the difference. Shikhar Dhawan finally struck gold in the series, his fifth ODI hundred helping India to a facile win. The left-handed opener’s return to international cricket has seen him replace the aggression lost by India once Virender Sehwag was dropped.

Dhoni’s side has always won when Dhawan has scored more than 50 in an ODI. This has happened no less than 10 times since June, one of the major reasons why India is currently on this trophy-laden streak.

This successful run, more than anything else, will raise Indian fans’ hopes as the team prepares for a gruelling 15-month schedule ahead. This period includes tours to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, in addition to two World Cups.

Yes, there have been continued unconvincing performances by bowlers in the ODIs while many would remember that India has lost its last eight away Tests.

Hence, if the Indian team replicates its recent achievements in the coming months, the loud celebrations will return as well.

THE SCORES

At Kochi: West Indies 211 in 48.5 overs (Johnson Charles 42, Darren Bravo 59, Ravindra Jadeja three for 37, Suresh Raina three for 34) lost to India 212 for four in 35.2 overs (Rohit Sharma 72, Virat Kohli 86).

At Visakhapatnam: India 288 for seven in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 35, Virat Kohli 99, M. S. Dhoni 51 n.o, Ravi Rampaul four for 60) lost to West Indies 289 for eight in 49.3 overs (Kieran Powell 59, Darren Bravo 50, Lendl Simmons 62, Darren Sammy 63 n.o).

At Kanpur: West Indies 263 for five in 50 overs (Kieran Powell 70, Marlon Samuels 71, Darren Bravo 51 n.o, Darren Sammy 37 n.o) lost to India 266 for five in 46.1 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 119, Yuvraj Singh 55, Suresh Raina 34).

Man of the Series: V. Kohli.