West Indies competed extremely well in the first three ODIs of the five-match ODI series against India, winning one, losing one and fighting hard to tie the third. But then in the final two ODIs, they produced embarrassing batting performances to succumb to two totals below 160 and concede the series 3-1.
India must be praised for coming up with clinical performances in the last two ODIs to wrap up the series comfortably. There were few positives and negatives during the ODI series vs West Indies that India need to work on ahead of the all-important 2019 World Cup in England.
Positives for India
The emergence of a third seamer in left-arm bowler Khaleel Ahmed
India needed a left-arm pacer to add variety to the pace bowling unit in the 2019 World Cup where the conditions will be conducive for fast bowling. A left-arm pacer can pose problems for the right-handed batsmen in the opposition’s camp. Hence, the success of left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed bodes well for India. Remember how Ashish Nehra has destroyed England in 2003 World Cup with 6/23. Hence, Khaleel will add the balance to the pace bowling unit and give support to the main bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
A No 4 batsman in Ambati Rayudu
Rayudu has resolved a crisis for Team India in limited-overs cricket by coming good at No 4 in the West Indies series. India tried many options at No 4, but all failed to contribute consistently. And the time was running out for India before Rayudu grabbed the opportunity with both hands and sealed a berth for himself in the 2019 World Cup. Unless there is a sudden drop of form, Rayudu will remain favourite for the No 4 spot in limited-overs cricket for India till the World Cup.
Ravindra Jadeja gives more options to India
The re-emergence of Ravindra Jadeja as an all-rounder in limited-overs cricket gives more opportunity to Team India to balance the playing XI. India can now go with 6 to 7 bowling option in ODIs, with Kedar Jadhav also handy with his off-breaks. Hence, India are spoiled for choices now. Depending on the conditions and requirements, they can select Jadeja in the playing XI to add depth to the batting and bowling department. Since the Asia Cup, Jadeja continues to impress with his all-round skills and India hopes he carries forward his form ahead.
MS Dhoni’s batting form
Dhoni continues to struggle with the bat and his waning form has been a cause for worry. Although he has not got many opportunities to bat in the series. However, whenever he did bat, he has disappointed. But he continues to shine behind the stumps and in helping the captain Virat Kohli in field placing, DRS; he will remain favourites to retain his spot for the 2019 World Cup. But India can do with some contributions from Dhoni with the bat.
Although Rayudu has come good at No 4, the middle-order is still vulnerable with the top three – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli – doing major bulk of the scoring. If the top three fail, and Rayudu has an off day, the middle-order comprising Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav can come under pressure. With Dhoni not at his best, and Jadhav struggling with his fitness, India have a lot of think about on their middle-order’s frailty. Hardik Pandya’s presence will be helpful, but he too has struggled with his fitness of late. Hence, India need to sort out their middle-order woes before the 2019 World Cup.