West Indies in back foot as Team India gears up for a lead

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By Our Sports Affairs Bureau

CUTTACK/BHUBANESWAR: The chilly air are flowing both sides of Mahanadi River and Kathajodi River is expected to play a key role in Sunday’s India-West Indies ODI encounter at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.

This is the second successive bilateral series at home in which India have come to the deciding ODI with the series still even. The last time it happened, against Australia, India ended up losing.

Is a repeat likely? Perhaps not, given India’s strength in the 50-overs format, but it’s not out of the question. West Indies showed in the first ODI that when their batting and bowling come together, they are a side that’s hard to stop too.

India have had injury issues with their bowling attack, but the batting wears an extremely powerful look. Shreyas Iyer has settled in as a No. 4 who can explode if coming in late, or rebuild if early wickets have fallen. With Rishabh Pant and Kedar Jadhav to follow, Iyer has become the link between an irresistible top three and a power-packed finish.

West Indies also have most bases covered with their batting, but their bowling has the tendency to fall apart under pressure. To be fair, when a batting line-up like India’s gets going in familiar conditions, any attack will be under pressure. The best way to counter that for West Indies will be early wickets.

Two matches, four runs, five balls, two dismissals. This is alien territory for Virat Kohli, especially in ODIs, and especially against West Indies. He set the scene on fire in the T20Is, but he has barely given spectators enough time to settle down from applauding him into the crease when he has been walking back. Cricket odds don’t work in this fashion but it will take a brave, possibly foolhardy person to bet against Kohli making a big score in this match. Despite the two failures in this series, he is still averaging 71.66 at a strike rate of 97.06 against West Indies.

Coming into this match on the back of becoming an IPL millionaire, Sheldon Cottrell had a below-par outing in the second ODI, but he was quite irresistible in the opening game. His first spell there read 5-3-12-2, the wickets being of KL Rahul and Kohli. His left-arm angle, changes of pace and ability to move the ball off the pitch make him a consistent threat.

India lost Bhuvneshwar Kumar to injury, and are now without Deepak Chahar too. Their replacements are Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini. India’s choice of playing XI will depend on whether they want to go with three seamers or three spinners. If they pick only two seamers, Saini will have to beat Thakur to make it to the XI. He was impressive for Delhi in the recent second round of the Ranji Trophy, while Thakur wasn’t particularly penetrative in the second ODI.

India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Shardul Thakur/Yuzvendra Chahal

West Indies need a lift in their bowling, but they might want to keep faith in the same attack that did duty in the second ODI. One of the swaps possible is bringing back the legspinner Hayden Walsh Jr for left-arm spinner Khary Pierre, but Walsh Jr didn’t seem to have his captain’s confidence in the first ODI, when he bowled only five overs. And considering India plundered 387 in the second ODI, Pierre’s economy rate of 6.88 across nine overs was commendable.

West Indies (probable) 1 Ewin Lewis, 2 Shai Hope (wk), 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Roston Chase, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Kieron Pollard (capt), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Keemo Paul, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Khary Pierre, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

The last ODI at this ground was played nearly three years ago, and it was a very high scoring one. India made 381 for 6 and England responded with 366 for 8. There haven’t been List A matches at the ground since March 2017, though in the domestic T20s earlier this year, the scoring rates, in general, weren’t high.

Iyer said on the eve of the match that the pitch will be “really fast” in the second innings and the dew factor will play a “massive role”.

The last time India lost two consecutive multi-game bilateral series at home was back in April 2005, when Pakistan beat them 4-2, with West Indies having won 4-3 in November 2002 in the bilateral series before that.

India haven’t played Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav together in a game in a while, but the stats when they do play together are pretty good, with India having a win-loss ratio of 2.66. They have won 24 games and lost just nine, with one no result.

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