Krunal Pandya’s rapid-fire 21 not out on debut headlined the first T20I in Kolkata as India successfully edged out the West Indies with 13 balls to spare. The batting wasn’t exactly at its best that night for either side, more so the bowlers who got a reprieve on the scoreboard with some added bonuses. With some Windies T20 specialists withdrawing from the tour, India just about have this series in the bag.
As the Kolkata crowd showed up to see Rohit Sharma strut his stuff at the top of the order and lead India to victory, they would’ve been extremely disappointed to see the skipper walking back to the dugout as early as the opening over of their run chase. The 31-year-old put on some brilliant-batting spectacles in the recent ODI series against the Windies, unfortunately that form couldn’t be translated into the opening T20 on Sunday. Jamaican speedster Oshane Thomas sent down two rip-snorting deliveries that proved too difficult to handle for Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan who were given their marching orders by the umpire. The out-of-favour KL Rahul finally got his opportunity for India in limited-overs cricket as he slotted back in at No. 3, however the pitch wasn’t offering a lot of runs. India’s middle order basically capitulated despite Rahul and Pandey’s efforts to somewhat-stabilize the innings, that’s where the lower order stepped up with some crucial power-hitting to see the Indians home.
Wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik’s unbeaten 31 helped steer the home team to victory, but it was the debutante Krunal Pandya who finished the innings off in style with a brisk-21 as he slammed three quick boundaries to seal the deal for India. Shreyas Iyer was a surprising no-show in Kolkata, India deciding to play both wicketkeepers over the 23-year-old who showed a lot of promise in this year’s IPL. With a strike rate of just 10.5 in T20 International cricket, it’s no wonder that Kuldeep Yadav is getting the nod over Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal as the specialist spinner. He’s becoming a regular for India in limited-overs cricket, soon he’ll be playing all three formats at a regular rate if he keeps up this sort of form. Krunal Pandya’s off-spin as the all-rounder should see India maintain three specialist seamers at Lucknow despite Chahal, Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar all knocking on the door. It’s expected that they’ll rotate bench players throughout the series, it’s just a question of who & when. Bhuvneshwar Kumar might also be in the frame to make a return to the XI.
The withdrawals of opening batsman Evin Lewis and freakishly talented all-rounder Andre Russell has left the West Indies short of firepower in a format where big-hitting wins you most games of cricket. The Windies have had to make do with what they’ve got to work with in this series, Shai Hope one of the seven players to hold his spot from the recent ODI series after Russell withdrawn from the tournament due to injury. The visitors batting line-up look jumbled at best with Shai Hope and Denesh Ramdin opening the batting, an unusual pairing which didn’t eventuate to much in the first match of the series. Plenty of improvement is needed next time around with the bat for the Windies, however they caught India by surprise with the ball after Oshane Thomas dismissed both Indian openers with two cracking deliveries at high speed. After a brilliant start with the new ball from Thomas, skipper Carlos Brathwaite joined in on the action and peeled off two more wickets in the middle order as India’s innings continued to spiral downwards.
They were probably one or two wickets short of bringing India’s innings crashing down, in the end the home side found some spirit and put the Windies away after the game looked evenly-poised for a lengthy amount of time. Oshane Thomas and Carlos Brathwaite were both impressive with the ball, they just need some support from the rest of the attack to balance out the teams overall performance. Their batting certainly didn’t help the cause, India’s bowlers just pinned them down which resulted in a lot of panic-shot selection. A weight of expectation hangs over the shoulders of both Shimron Hetmyer and Kieron Pollard who appear to be the Windies most threating strikers in the line-up with some key names missing. The 21-year-old’s form gradually dropped off in the ODI series, but his upside in this format is significant. The likes of Pollard and Darren Bravo need to show their experience against India, they can’t afford to keep leaving it up to the likes of Fabian Allen and Keemo Paul in the lower order. Despite his X factor with the bat, Rovman Powell has been starved of runs on this tour with time quickly running out to put a good performance on the board.
Top 5 fantasy picks | India | 2nd T20I | Lucknow
- Rohit Sharma
- KL Rahul
- Kuldeep Yadav
- Khaleel Ahmed
- Rishabh Pant
Wildcard pick – Shikhar Dhawan
Top 5 fantasy picks | West Indies | 2nd T20I | Lucknow
- Shimron Hetmyer
- Carlos Brathwaite
- Shai Hope
- Oshane Thomas
- Darren Bravo
Wildcard pick – Kieron Pollard
India (possible) – 1. Rohit Sharma © 2. Shikhar Dhawan 3. KL Rahul 4. Manish Pandey/Shreyas Iyer 5. Rishabh Pant 6. Dinesh Karthik (wk) 7. Krunal Pandya 8. Kuldeep Yadav 9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Umesh Yadav 10. Jasprit Bumrah 11. Khaleel Ahmed.
West Indies (possible) – 1. Shai Hope 2. Denesh Ramdin (wk) 3. Shimron Hetmyer 4. Kieron Pollard 5. Darren Bravo 6. Rovman Powell/Sherfane Rutherford 7. Carlos Brathwaite © 8. Fabian Allen 9. Keemo Paul/Obed McCoy 10. Khary Pierre 11. Oshane Thomas.