West Indies will be playing their first bilateral T-20 series against India. 

 

Fact of the matter is – the Indian cricket has decided to let go by leaving MS Dhoni out of the T-20 series against West Indies, and moved forward in the game, which is, logically speaking, a right decision. At this moment, a bilateral T-20 series is not a priority for any of the international teams as the world cricket gears up for the ODI World Cup next year.

What might be worrying Dhoni’s fans is his exclusion from the Australian tour in T-20s. If we were to take the moral high road, we should definitely rely on Dhoni, but the statistics read otherwise. In 2018, Dhoni has batted in five T20s and his score line reads 16 (11), 52*(28), 12 (11), 11 (5), 32*(24). Overall, he has played 93 matches and scored 1,487 runs at an average of 37.17 at a strike rate of 127.90.

Although Dhoni aggregated 455 in the eleventh edition of IPL, striking at a rate of 150 and averaging nearly 76, it is important to realise that international cricket is altogether a different ball game. There will always be ample contrarians to criticise his exclusion but one can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the team seems to be missing a finisher who can endure high pressure on a regular basis in crunch situations.

It can also be pointed out that if the team is eyeing 2019 T-20 World Cup, Rishabh Pant must be given the chance to settle down in the team, and from there, it would be an easier ride for him to switch to the ODI mode. Although captain Virat Kohli did try to clear the air by saying that Dhoni “is still an integral part” of India’s plans, but it looks like it might be the end of road for the man who won India its first T-20 World Cup in 2007.

India, led by Rohit Sharma, faces West Indies on Sunday at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Kohli has opted out of the series. The boys must be brimming with confidence after their convincing 2-1 win in T-20 series in England and a run that they can proudly pat themselves on the back – they have won 10 matches out of 13 and drew 1 since 2016. But the former World T-20 champion must also be wary since the West Indies is the only team India have tasted defeat against in the last two years. Head to head, the Indian team have won only two games and lost five. The only hair in the soup is the Caribbeans’ abysmal record in Asia. They have played six games in Asia and lost all of them.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if the team who wins toss opts to bat first owing to the dew factor that can play a crucial part in the game as winter approaches India. With the sun up, the pitch is dry with slight covering of grass, which means it will offer bounce and the ball will easily come on the bat. Despite the weather being slightly overcast in the afternoon on Saturday, the Met has not predicted any showers in the next two days.

This is West Indies’ first bilateral T-20 series in India. They will pose a challenge to the Indian team as the former features some explosive players like Keiron Pollard, Andre Russel, skipper Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo and latest sensation Shimron Hetmyer in their batting line-up. The current world champions have not had a great year in the format, winning only twice – the victory against ICC World XI included – in 2018, losing two games to Bangladesh in their last couple of encounters. Their trump card, Russel has 625 runs to his name and poses threat with an astounding strike rate of 183.82. He also has 35 wickets in his kitty.

The selectors seems to be planning for the World T-20 as they picked three uncapped players – Krunal Pandya, S Nadeem and Khaleel Ahmed – for the current and Australia series. Shreyas Iyer and Washington Sundar also feature in the squad.

In absence of Kohli, India will ride on the hopes of their all-weather openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan will take confidence from 434 runs in 12 matches, scoring four 50s this year but he would be fighting his impulse after losing his place in the Test squad and a disappointing ODI series against Windies. If Kohli is the run machine, Rohit Sharma has been flooding the cricket field with runs. Who will forget his record 264 runs against Australia! It seems like another opportunity for him to wreak havoc on the opposition team.

Promising pacer Khaleel Ahmed would be looking to cement his place further for the team. He showed what he is capable of after picking three wickets in the fourth ODI against the Windies. The bowling department looks well balanced with strike bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah. Kumar has looked weary in the recent times and will look to pitch the ball further up and find his form.

The spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal provides that perfect balance in the team’s bowling line-up. It goes without saying that the spectators at the Eden Gardens will witness profusion of runs. The match starts at 7 pm on Sunday.

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