India face West Indies challenge with focus shifting back to T20 cricket

Match details
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
December 6, Friday; 19:00 IST

The main picture
Focus shifts back to T20 cricket, and rehearsing for next year’s T20 World Cup, after a near-month-long frenzy for India’s first day-night Test against Bangladesh. Two years ago, perhaps, a T20 International series between India and the defending world champion (West Indies) would have been as mouth-watering a prospect as the pink-ball Test at the Eden Gardens last month. While the fast-paced, unrestrained nature of T20 cricket gives us reasons to be expectant of a good contest, India, even in the words of the visiting captain (Kieron Pollard), start the three-match T20I series as the favourite to win it.

Maybe Pollard is trying to free his players from the pressure of expectations by saying “we [West Indies] are the underdogs against India”, but West Indies’s recent record in the format doesn’t make pretty reading even though India aren’t a world-beating side themselves. The two-time T20 World Cup winner have won just two of their T20I series (seven) since the start of 2018—one of those two victories being a one-off T20I against the ICC World XI. India have whitewashed them both times the teams have met in the last 14 months.

That said, this is a new dawn of sorts for the West Indies with Pollard assuming captaincy of the T20I and ODI sides, and a T20I series against India—a team who they are all too familiar with, having played with and against a lot of the India players through the IPL—should bring the best out of them.

The West Indies squad for the T20I series has most bases covered: veteran opening batsman Lendl Simmons’s return adds to the firepower and experience of a batting line-up that is brimming with power-hitters and batsmen who can clear the boundary at will, while the inclusion of the top performers with the bat and with the ball in CPL 2019 (Brandon King, Hayden Walsh Jr, to name a couple) arms the visitor with options to surprise India. For the West Indies, the performance of the batting line-up remains the key to beating India.

India’s outgoing national selection committee, chaired by MSK Prasad, have named the best-possible squad considering two of their first-choice players (Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya) are on their post-surgery rehabilitation courses. Captain Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are the players returning to the squad, with spin-bowling all-rounder Krunal Pandya and seamer Khaleel Ahmed dropping out. A knee injury to Shikhar Dhawan has handed Sanju Samson another call-up to the national T20 side having not been named initially.

Dhawan’s absence is likely to move KL Rahul to open the batting with Rohit Sharma, while Kohli’s return to the side will push Shreyas Iyer down to No. 4 albeit it only adds more depth to the Indian batting line-up. Returning all-rounder Jadeja is likely to slot back into the playing XI with Shivam Dube, who impressed with the ball in the series decider against Bangladesh, also likely to keep his place.

India, like the West Indies, are brimming with options, and over the next week we’ll see players auditioning for places in the squad for next year’s T20 World Cup even as the collective aim will be to win and build confidence.

Rajiv Gandhi Stadium Hyderabad pitch report

The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium pitch has usually been excellent for batting, espcially under lights. The true pace and bounce of the surface is likely to aid the stroke-makers on either side, while the bowlers will rely on cutters and variations in pace to stifle the batsmen.

The weather forecast says that Friday will be clear with the temperature at night dropping to 15-degree Celsius.

India vs West Indies 1st T20 playing 11

Possible India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Possible West Indies playing 11: 1 Kieron Pollard (c), 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Brandon King/Lendl Simmons, 4 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Sherfane Rutherford, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Sheldon Cottrell, 9 Kesrick Williams, 10 Hayden Walsh Jr, 11 Khary Pierre

India vs West Indies 1st T20 match prediction

West Indies need their batting to come good to challenge India. In recent times, their batting has been the big letdown, with former ODI captain Jason Holder reiterating that the batsmen “need to take responsibility”. While T20 cricket necessitates that batsmen prioritise scoring quickly over occupying the crease, the West Indies batsmen must be judicious with the shots they play against a quality Indian bowling attack. The battle between the Indian bowlers and the West Indies batsmen is likely to be decisive.

India vs West Indies 1st T20 telecast channel

The first T20 International between India and the West Indies will be aired on the Star Sports Network, while Hotstar will provide the live stream.