Sudden capitulation

Dwayne Smith is dejected after falling for 97. The bowler Mohammed Shami came up with another good show.-PICS: S. SUBRAMANIUM

West Indies looked to double its lead in New Delhi but crashed to a dramatic 48-run loss from a position where victory was well within sight. Rakesh Rao reports.

After two matches of the ODI series, one factor that stood reinforced was the unpredictability of this West Indian side.

After landing in India, the team struggled in the run-up to the series before shifting to cruise mode for a crushing victory in Kochi.

Obviously upbeat after outplaying the World Champion, West Indies looked to double its lead in New Delhi but crashed to a dramatic 48-run loss from a position where victory was well within sight.

With the teams looking to test out their best combinations ahead of the World Cup early next year, there are fewer opportunities to experiment. As compared to India, West Indies has a far superior, varied pace-attack, a good number of all-rounders and a batting line-up that includes quite a few big-hitters.

India, in spite of winning the ODI series in England, is yet to look convincing. Lack of quality all-rounders has left M. S. Dhoni with the limited option of going in with three pacers and a lone spinner.

GOOD JOB MATE... Ravindra Jadeja is congratulated by Ambati Rayudu after he had got rid of Andre Russell.-

Though India takes pride in its batting prowess, the inadequacies in bowling get exposed from time to time. In fact, India has conceded runs in excess of 270 in the majority of matches it had played this year. Such being the background, it is not surprising that India prefers to chase. However, after the drubbing in Kochi, Dhoni’s decision to set the target at the freshly-laid Ferozeshah Kotla pitch appeared natural. In fact, this was only the fifth time in 32 games since January 2013 that India batted first.

The early exit of Shikhar Dhawan brought to the fore a change in the batting order. Ambati Rayudu came ahead of an off-form Virat Kohli and this, in hindsight, seemed to have worked well for the team. As Dhoni was to explain later, “We wanted to have our most experienced batsmen in terms of having played ODIs — Virat, Raina and me — at 4, 5 and 6 so that we have a few more options in the power-play and the slog overs. If you have wickets, then you can begin to slog even by the 44th or even the 42nd over. But we have been losing a wicket or two in the power-play and that forces us to revise our plans in the last 10 overs.”

In fact, it was no different in this match. The century-stand between Kohli and Raina seemed to have given the team the foundation to set a formidable total.

Kohli, less convincing than the in-form Raina, cashed in on the opportunity to get some runs before his home crowd. Raina retained his flourish and flamboyance to stand out in this association.

But Raina’s fall in the batting powerplay proved crucial. As a result, between overs 36-40, India scored only 29 runs. The last 10 overs saw India add 71 runs, with Dhoni doing bulk of the scoring for his unbeaten 51.

Interestingly, this was only the second occasion when Indian batsmen coming in at 4-5-6 went past the half-century mark. The only previous instance also involved the trio with Raina (68), Dhoni (107) and Kohli (54) flourishing against Sri Lanka in 2009.

On setting a target of 264, Dhoni said, “We were at least 20 runs short of the total what we wanted on the board.”

Indeed, the way the West Indies top-order batted, Dhoni’s fears seemed to be coming true. Dwayne Smith and Darren Bravo denied India an early breakthrough with a 64-run start. Thereafter, Smith and Kieron Pollard took the total to 136 before the latter departed to give India some relief.

Kochi’s century-maker Marlon Samuels joined Smith, who looked good to get his first ODI century, and kept the team in control. However, Smith’s fall following a run-a-ball 97 — making it 170 for three — did give the host a faint hope.

Mishra, who tormented Samuels as if to get back at him with a vengeance for being treated with disdain in Kochi, exerted pressure and Umesh Yadav gained from it. In exasperation, Samuels departed in trying to give Yadav the charge.

In the 41st over, a change of ball turned the tide in India’s favour. The firmer ball was used well by Jadeja and Shami on a pitch that offered double-bounce. Dhoni pointed to the change of ball as the “real turning point” of the contest.

Four wickets fell in the space of 10 runs to reduce West Indies to 189 for eight. It was all over as a contest before Shami finished with four wickets and Mishra three.

The sudden capitulation of this team — from 170 for two to 215 all out — was too dramatic. More than the bowlers winning the match for India, it was the West Indians who lost it.

The Indian bowling still looks far less potent than what Dhoni expects it to be when the team begins its title-defence of the World Cup.

India has been undefeated at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground since its 159-run loss to Pakistan in April 2005.