India-WI ODI series: Krishna to rescue as hosts seal series

The game changed after Prasidh Krishna came into the attack in the eighth over. Until then, West Indies hoped.

India were defending a modest 237 and early wickets were needed. But Shai Hope and Brandon King, the two Caribbean openers, were getting into the groove and raising the tempo, when skipper Rohit Sharma made a decisive bowling change.

Prasidh has made his name in T20 cricket, playing for Kolkata Knight Riders. But he has ‘red-ball bowler’ written all over him, with an attacking line and length, and ability to move the ball.

The Motera pitch for the second ODI was a bit spicy, offering good bounce and off-the-deck movement. Alzarri Joseph bowled a brilliant spell with the new ball for the tourists. Prasidh bettered him in India’s 44-run victory. The hosts annexed the three-match series after West Indies were all out for 193.

Sharma had brought him on as a wicket-taking option and it was imperative for the seamer to bowl to his strengths, sticking to classic red-ball principles in terms of line and length. Prasidh struck immediately, hitting a hard length outside off and managing to extract extra bounce. King, attempting an expansive slash, failed to get on top of the bounce.

Darren Bravo is the old hand in the Caribbean pack and Prasidh was convinced that he had induced an edge from the left-hander to Rishabh Pant. Umpire Nitin Menon negated the appeal, but Sharma decided to go upstairs. Ultra Edge detected a spike and it was five out of five for the India captain over two games, DRS-wise. Little wonder that Sunil Gavaskar on air has started calling it ‘Definitely Rohit System’.

This West Indies batting line-up is brittle under pressure. So when Prasidh removed stand-in West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran – Kieron Pollard sat out owing to a niggle – India were in complete ascendency. It was another back-of-a-length ball that moved away, squaring up the left-hander a touch and taking the outside edge on way to Sharma at first slip. Standing a bit wider in that position was smart thinking from the skipper. His tactical nous came to the fore, as Yuzvendra Chahal dismissed Hope.

Googlies had served the leg-spinner well in the first ODI and after the game, Chahal had confirmed that he bowled a lot of them on Sharma’s insistence. On Wednesday, the captain’s brief to the leggie was ostensibly to bowl loopy leg-breaks outside off stump, taking the ball away from the right-handers. Hope, moving at a snail’s pace, was getting restless. He picked the wrong delivery to hit against the turn, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sharma had kept Suryakumar Yadav a tad wider at long-on. It was excellent cricket all around; good bowling, a fine catch and top-class captaincy. This was what India had missed during their 0-3 ODI series defeat in South Africa, with Virat Kohli stepping down and Sharma absent due to a hamstring injury.

Promising future

Coming back to Prasidh, his emergence is good news for Indian cricket at a time when the team has been searching for a replacement for Bhuvneshwar Kumar. After the South Africa tour, head coach Rahul Dravid had spoken about India’s inability to take wickets in the middle overs. Prasidh could offer a solution. After three wickets in Cape Town and a couple in the first ODI here, the 25-year-old returned with 4/12 in nine overs from this game. He and Mohammed Siraj, along with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, will make India’s pace attack meaty across formats. As regards to Prasidh’s immediate future, a Man-of-the-Match performance just two days before the Indian Premier League mega auction was timely.

As for Sharma’s captaincy, he hardly put a foot wrong, save a couple of no-balls due to fielding infringements. Every bowling change worked.

He brought back Shardul Thakur and the medium pacer bounced out Jason Holder. Rohit turned to Thakur again, when Akeal Hosein was giving a mini scare, and the bowler got rid of him with another bouncer. Siraj removing Fabian Allen came on the heels of another successful bowling change. Before that, when Sharma introduced Deepak Hooda, the off-spinner bagged his maiden international wicket by dismissing a well-set Shamarh Brooks.

Batting, though, remains a concern for India and the course correction mainly lies in Kohli returning to form. Over the last 10-odd years, Kohli and Sharma have been the backbone of the team’s top-order batting in white-ball cricket. Now, they aren’t scoring runs in tandem. It hurt India at the T20 World Cup. Kohli not getting big scores was a reason for the team’s ODI series defeat in South Africa as well.

On Wednesday, Sharma (5) got out to a Kemar Roach delivery that kicked off from a length outside off stump. Kohli (18) went for a cover drive to an Odean Smith delivery, just that the ball moved off the seam after pitching and kissed the outside edge. It’s almost two-and-a-half years since the former captain scored an international hundred. Without big scores from him and Sharma, the team’s batting loses its sheen.

A 91-run fourth-wicket partnership between KL Rahul and Yadav gave India’s total some respectability. Rahul was lucky to get a reprieve on four before falling prey to a mix-up on 49. Yadav scored 64 but yet again failed to convert a half-century.

As Rahul departed, TV cameras captured the India U-19 World Cup-winning squad, resplendent in their national team blazers and watching the seniors, sitting alongside BCCI secretary Jay Shah and treasurer Arun Dhumal. Out there in the middle, Washington Sundar, an U-19 graduate, played a glorious straight drive off Roach, further attesting a seamless progression to the next level.

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