There is something about West Indies and T20 Cricket. It’s a deadly combination. The dashing Caribbeans just sort of come alive when they play a 20-over game. And while all the attention was on the big names, the Gayles, the Badrees, the Pollards — Evin Lewis, on quite a windy day in Jamaica, hit India like a hurricane. But by the time the game was over, with 9 balls to spare, the Indians didn’t know what hit’ em. It was the kind of drubbing bowlers dread for.
When Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan opened the batting to give India the kind of start they got, 220 definitely looked like it was on the cards. It didn’t finish that way but Kohli too agreed at the post-match chat that the team was 30 runs short. Perhaps if a nervous, Rishab Pant playing just his second T20I, could have accelerated his innings in the middle, or maybe if India didn’t lose Dhoni, Pant and Kedar Jadhav in succession things would have been different. But, was it just the batting that fell short of the mark? Obviously no.
India’s bowlers were whacked to all parts of Sabina Park. Spinner or seamer; no one was spared by Lewis. Slightly short, whacked. Slightly full, whacked. Length ball, whacked. He hit 12 sixes. Some of them landed in the commentary box, some out of the ground, some into the crowd. Lewis was just too good for India. But then there was India’s fielding too that added to the misery, and Lewis surviving.
Confusion between Kohli and Shami, then Dinesh Karthik dropping a catch that should be taken at this level, Dhoni not having a very good day behind the stumps. All in all, nothing went India’s way, apart from Gayle’s wicket. And fortunately, there were Dhoni’s gloves under that catch too.
On days like these it is hard to find positives from defeat. But when you look at the bigger picture you could say, Pant, got valuable time in the middle, against a top T20I side. Maybe next time he won’t be as nervous as he looked, bit more confident and thoughtful in his approach. Dinesh Karthik too played some really wonderful shots for his 48. Also, his shots were played all around the park; a few cut shorts on the offside, sweeps, slogs, overall a mix of everything. Captain Kohli looked at his scoring best too, playing shots on the merit all through his 39 off 22.
Among the bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar was economical early on, stuck to a decent line. Yes he couldn’t take a wicket but conceded the fewest among all bowlers. Then Kuldeep Yadav also was a bit unlucky. He got Gayle’s leading edge, beat Lewis twice at least, was difficult to pick for Samuels too. Finished with 1 for 34. Not a successful T20I debut to say the least, but promising nevertheless.
Let’s not also forget the fact that India were without many of their top players playing in the game. Kohli terming India’s T20I team to be “in an experimental phase”, after the game therefore, was not wrong. A few players were rested for the tour, a few given chances to prove. While no conclusion can be drawn from just a one-off game, India are still seeking to find a balance in T20Is. Till they find a team that clicks, they can keep adding and subtracting.
But by now they’ve understood how costly no-balls, dropped catches, missed run-outs, half-chances can be. They’ve learnt it the hard way. Sunday was another lesson.