Kohli-Iyer brilliance, Pant’s missed chances: Key takeaways from India’s ODI series victory
The three-match series victory against the Caribbean is a kick at the can for India to get back to their winning ways and prepare themselves for another four-year cycle on a positive note.
Having clinched a whitewash against West Indies in the T20Is, India followed it up with another clean sweep in the ODIs with a six-wicket victory in the rain-affected third and final match at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad on Wednesday.
Twice the Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma failed—they managed just 20 and 46 runs in the second and third ODIs—and twice the captain Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer came to the rescue by stitching together a 100+ partnership to close the series 2-0. The first ODI in Guyana was washed out.
This will take the edge off the men in blue who were ill at ease with their brittle middle-order even before the start of the World Cup—they tried a dozen players for the no. 4 spot since the 2015 World Cup—and after their semi-final loss to New Zealand.
India had a good run at the tournament finishing at the top of the end of the league stage, but that was buoyed more or less by India’s top 3 led by the highly gifted Rohit Sharma, who holds the record for the highest number of centuries (5) in a single World Cup tournament.
The three-match series victory against the Caribbean is a kick at the can for India to get back to their winning ways and prepare themselves for another four-year cycle on a positive note. Though Kohli-Iyer stole the limelight, here are some interesting takeaways.
The King is back
The highly motivated Virat Kohli etched his name in history to become the first batsman to score 20,000+ runs in a single decade. He achieved this milestone while scoring a match-winning 114* in the third ODI against WI, which incidentally, also levelled him with Sachin Tendulkar as the batsman with most ODIs centuries against a team.
But it’s not the mountain of runs and records that best defines the captain but the craftiness with which he paces his innings and plays to the situation while being aware at all times what his team requires best.
The captain had a point to prove after India’s heartbreaking exit from the World Cup. He had hit a string of half-centuries—five, to be precise—but failed to convert them to big totals in 9 matches that he scored 443 runs at an average of 55.37.
The 30-year-old hit back-to-back centuries to bring his ODI tons tally to 43—just six short off the all-time record by Sachin Tendulkar. As a captain, he is just one century short (21 in 76 innings) of former Aussie cricketer Ricky Ponting (22 in 220 innings).
Most ODI tons in chases:
Virat Kohli (131 innings): 26
Sachin Tendulkar (232 innings): 17
Rohit Sharma (124 innings): 13
The no. 4 conundrum continues
After flirting with the likes of Rahane, Rayudu, Pandey, Rahul, and others, India flew in Rishabh Pant at number 4 in the World Cup 2019. He played 4 matches and scored 116 runs at an average of 29. The team management, however, retained faith in the swashbuckling left-hander and talked about grooming him as a potential wicketkeeping replacement for MS Dhoni. Next up was the West Indies series.
The 21-year-old came in to bat at number 4 against the Carribean with much gusto. But he failed to capitalise on the opportunity and was dismissed for 20 and a disappointing golden duck in the two ODIs. Tell you what, in his last three ODI innings, Pant got out to ugly shots, two of them wild slogs, and one of them costing India a spot in the World Cup final. He will learn, for sure, but he would want to make hay while the sun shines.
Iyer, the middle-order saviour
While Pant messed up in the last two games, it was Iyer doing the cleaning—and he did a fine job at that! A couple of half-centuries and a 100+ partnership with captain Virat Kohli meant India handled the pressure with relative ease.
“Both times he was batting with me. I have been around for a while and he was not intimidated at all, he was very confident, very sure of his game. At no stage he looked like getting out, that is great to see,” Kohli said on Wednesday at the post-match conference.
“He has suddenly presented a role for himself, coming in and playing according to the situation. Hopefully, he builds on to this and keeps performing like this for the team... he can be a strong contender and a regular feature in the middle order.”
Shreyas adds new twist to Chahal TV ????????— BCCI (@BCCI) August 16, 2019
What are @yuzi_chahal & Shreyas up to in this final episode of Chahal TV from the Caribbean? By @28anand
Find out here ????????️https://t.co/zHcA7hsCNR #WIvIND #TeamIndia pic.twitter.com/9rx8d0LggG
It might have been a bit unfair that Iyer, who last played in December 2017, was sidelined from the World Cup chase as the management thought he was perhaps too young—or, raw—to be given that humongous number four responsibility. Having scored 346 runs in seven matches at an average of 49.43 in the ODIs, Iyer has presented a huge case for himself.