Just weeks after their poor performance at the ICC World Cup in England, West Indies take to the field in the first match of their One-Day International series against India at Providence, Guyana tomorrow.
Their batting performance let them down in that ICC tournament, so captain Jason Holder has said that the immediate focus was on making sure the players converted their starts into big innings.
“Too many instances where we have gotten starts as individuals but never carried them deep into the innings, so that’s one area we have pinpointed and once we’ve tackled that we have put ourselves in a very good position,” Holder said ahead of the first ODI.
The last two series West Indies played against India, they suffered 3-1 losses (2017 in the West Indies and 2018-19 in India) but the team have shown promising performance, drawing the recent series against England in the Caribbean before the World Cup meltdown. Their bowling, both in that series and in the World Cup was a major strong suit, Holder said.
“For me it’s just a matter of remaining disciplined with the new ball, taking new-ball wickets and focus on their middle order and take the game from there,” he said.
It’s been a humid few days in Guyana, with intermittent rain. The humidity will play a role in the ODI, Holder said. The last two games the West Indies played in Guyana have been high-scoring, with the wicket slightly on the slower side, and Holder was positive that would be the case in this series as well.
The team will also gain a lot from Chris Gayle’s return. “His presence is always felt whenever he steps onto a cricket field or in the dressing room,” Holder said.
Gayle, who had initially announced that he’d retire after the World Cup, decided to come back for what is likely to be one last ODI series in the West Indies. The opener will have another chance to break Brian Lara’s ODI record. He is 10 runs away from the most ODI runs for the West Indies – 10,348.
For West Indies, Holder’s return should calm things down after self-destruction started to trend during the T20Is which the home side lost 3-0 under the captaincy of Carlos Brathwaite and despite the return of T20 specialists Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine. West Indies’ batting was also disappointing in that series.
There have been a few changes from the squad that finished 9th in the World Cup with the likes of John Campbell, Roston Chase and Keemo Paul – who all played in the Ireland tri-nation series won by Bangladesh – returning to the fold.
With Gayle on his way out, the series will provide opportunities for the likes of John Campbell to cement his place at the top of the order. Campbell started with that record-breaking stand with Shai Hope against Ireland before the World Cup, but far from building on that hasn’t done anything of note since, signified by a total of 21 runs in his next four innings.
He was slightly unlucky to miss out on the last two T20Is against India, after he swept one cleanly but found the fielder on the boundary off just his second ball in the first match. With Gayle’s days supposedly numbered, this could be Campbell’s opportunity to feed off West Indies’ second most successful batsman in ODIs, before the baton is passed on to him.
West Indies will have to choose between Evin Lewis and John Campbell at the top to partner Chris Gayle. Lewis’ form has been patchy in recent times and he also endured a disappointing World Cup. Roston Chase could be the only spinner as he can bat in the top seven, allowing them to field a strong pace attack, which was their strength in the home series against England.
Shimron Hetmyer was a big disappointment in the T20 series where West Indies were whitewashed and will be hoping to find form and to do so quickly. Performing before his home fans is added incentive.
India have few concerns and with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in supreme form, their top order could provide West Indies with plenty headaches. In the absence of Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja’s recent batting form means he will be an easy swap as the genuine allrounder batting at No.7. That might mean that India pick three seamers and one of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as the second spinner. The third-seamer spot, in that case, will be a toss up between the pacy Navdeep Saini and Khaleel Ahmed. The batting line-up might be determined by whether India are confident going in with just five bowlers.
West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis/John Campbell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Keemo Paul, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Oshane Thomas, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
India (Probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul, 5 Manish Pandey/Kedar Jadhav/Shreyas Iyer, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk) 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Khaleel Ahmed/Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal