Big picture: Fearless approach sets the tone
In the first T20I on Thursday, there was a hint of the fearlessness and the freedom with which both West Indies and India batted. Despite losing both opening batters inside three balls of the fifth over, Nicholas Pooran pumped Yuzvendra Chahal for a four and a six off the next three deliveries. Next over, he deposited Axar Patel for a six and four.
Both teams are filled with eye-catching hitters and the T20 format offers the perfect stage to entertain only it was the bowlers who shone the brightest. India’s spinners did not let the odd boundary throw them off their plans and West Indies’ seamers used their change of pace to pull off a fine defence.
West Indies WWLWL (Last five completed T20Is; most recent first)
In the spotlight: Shepherd and Hardik
Romario Shepherd has faced just 185 balls across 13 innings in T20Is and sent 34 of them for a six or a four. That’s a balls per boundary ratio of 5.44, which fits a player who usually bats at No. 6 or lower. He has a strike rate of 205.88 in the last five overs in T20Is this year, the second-best for any batter to have faced at least 30 deliveries in that phase. While he managed just four from six balls on a used pitch against India, his two previous T20I knocks were an unbeaten 44 off 22 and another unbeaten 41 off 18 – both against South Africa in March 2023. If Shepherd can keep this form going, then he all but becomes a shoo-in ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup.
Team news: How do India shorten their tail?
West Indies wouldn’t want to tinker with a winning combination, especially since one more victory would take them close to a series win.
West Indies (probable): 1 Brandon King, 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Johnson Charles (wk), 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Rovman Powell (capt), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Romario Shepherd, 9 Akeal Hosein, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Obed McCoy
Playing three spinners in Tarouba left India with four No. 11s. So even as they needed only 37 from the final 27 balls, once the last recognised batter – Axar- fell it became a tall ask, though Arshdeep Singh did give West Indies a scare. That might force India to play Yashasvi Jaiswal, the only spare batter in the squad, leading to a toss up between Kuldeep and Chahal.
India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Ishan Kishan (wk), 3 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Tilak Varma, 6 Hardik Pandya (capt), 7 Sanju Samson, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mukesh Kumar
Pitch and conditions: Rain expected
Two of the last five T20Is at Providence Stadium in Guyana have been washed out. The scores batting first in the three completed games were 146, 157 and 163, with the chasing team winning twice. Going by that trend, prepare for more middling scores and more rain.
“This series will be decided on how the West Indian batters bat spin in those middle overs. If we bat spin good during the middle overs, then we have lot of batters and a lot of power in the back end… That makes left-handers – [Shimron] Hetmyer, [Nicholas] Pooran and Kyle Mayers – very important.”
West Indies captain Rovman Powell states what could be key to their success
“That’s his way of playing – he has a lot of attacking shots. He played really well despite being on debut, and despite the pressure of a run chase. There were some beautiful strokes, and he should back himself. I believe he will win a lot of matches for his side in the future.”
India seamer Arshdeep Singh is all praise for newcomer Tilak Varma