You could understand why. West Indies had not only lost their previous six games, but had lost the bulk of them comprehensively: by 120 runs and 53 runs against Pakistan, and then with 55 balls remaining and a whopping 176 balls remaining against Bangladesh. In five of those six matches, West Indies failed to bat out 50 overs.
Against India on Friday, West Indies batted out their full 50 overs, and came within one hit of pulling off only their third successful chase of a 300-plus target in ODIs. There were positives with the ball too; at one stage, India had looked like they would get past 350 with ease, but West Indies pegged them back admirably, taking five wickets and conceding just 83 runs in the last 15 overs.
As impressive as that performance was, though, West Indies were at close to full strength, and playing at home against an India side lacking the bulk of its first-choice players. For all the pride Pooran showed in his team’s performance on Friday, he and his team-mates will want desperately to put wins on the board. And they’ll be wary of false dawns. This run of defeats, after all, began with West Indies scoring 305 in a narrow loss in Multan.
West Indies LLLLL (last five completed ODIs, most recent first) India WWLWW
Shai Hope has been among ODI cricket’s most consistent run-getters in his time, but, as his 7 off 18 balls in the first ODI showed, those runs can sometimes come at a pace that’s a throwback to an earlier age. Of the 16 highest run-getters in ODIs since his debut, Hope has the lowest strike rate (74.86), with only one other batter in that top 16 – Tamim Iqbal – striking at below 80. He plays an important role in this West Indies line-up, however, and they will hope he can make a crucial contribution when he plays his 100th ODI on Sunday.
Shardul Thakur has an ODI economy rate of 6.63. Of all the bowlers to have taken at least 20 wickets since his debut, only one – Oshane Thomas – has done worse on that front. Thakur brings other things to the table, though, and his display on Friday summed him up. He came to the crease with only nine balls left, and hit a last-ball boundary that turned out quite useful given India’s narrow margin of victory. And while he was India’s most expensive bowler in terms of economy rate, and only sent down eight overs, he also picked up two key wickets, both of which owed something to his gambler’s instinct of willing batters to go after him. It was, like many of his performances, imperfect but not without its merits. But can he do more? And might he need to do more to keep out other contenders for the No. 8 role, particularly with Deepak Chahar now well on the road to recovery from the back injury that ruled him out of IPL 2022?
It seems unlikely that West Indies will make any changes given how close they came to victory on Friday, with performances coming from numerous members of their XI. Jason Holder, of course, will remain unavailable having tested positive for Covid-19.
Ravindra Jadeja sat out the first ODI with a knee injury, and the BCCI has confirmed that he will miss Sunday’s match as well. India don’t often make unforced changes when a series is still alive, so expect them to retain the same XI from the first ODI.
The pitch for the first ODI was a curious beast: flat and exceedingly so for long periods, but there were also phases when run-scoring was a little trickier with the old ball stopping on the batters. It resulted in an interesting contest between bat and ball, and conditions should remain similar on Sunday. The weather is expected to be clear, with a maximum temperature of 31°C.