By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Bowlers, led by Amit Mishra, restrict West Indies to 129 for 7 before Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli hit fifties to earn full points
Composed and professional, this was an India that hasn’t always turned up in Twenty20 International cricket. Hesitant and completely out of sorts, this was a West Indies that bore no resemblance to the team that displayed such flair on its way to the title 18 months back.
Consequently, Sunday’s (March 23) second match in Group 2 of the Super 10 stage in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 was singularly one-sided. India, having restricted West Indies to a woefully sub-par 129 for 7 – one less than Pakistan managed two nights back – after Mahendra Singh Dhoni continued to hit it lucky with the coin, won as it pleased at a rapidly emptying Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. The commanding seven-wicket triumph kept India at the top of the group standings with an all-win record.
Its second successive victory meant India had also taken a giant step towards making it to the semi-finals of the World T20 for the first time since it won the inaugural title in 2007. This was a win fashioned by the bowling trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and spin twins Amit Mishra and R Ashwin, and completed by the incandescence of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, on the back of whose 106-run second-wicket stand India cruised to 130 for 3, even if it took its time getting there after Kohli’s dismissal.
Just about the only stumbling block came before the start of India’s chase, play held up for ten minutes while the match officials worked out if the target was 130 or 131. The confusion arose after Lendl Simmons had completed a run even as he was caught off Ravindra Jadeja, umpire Kumar Dharmasena checking to see if Jadeja had overstepped as he indeed had.
Once that run off the bat was disregarded and the West Indies total was pegged at 129 and India quickly regrouped after the first-over loss of Shikhar Dhawan, there was no doubting where this game was headed.
The West Indian total would indicate another exceptional performance by India’s bowlers, though strangely enough, that wasn’t necessarily the case. It wasn’t as if India didn’t bowl well enough; with the pitch having considerably slowed down compared to the earlier run fest and the ball not coming on, stroke-making wasn’t easy. When India got its lines right, it was very good. But the fact that India sent down as many as 12 wides, had one wicket overturned because Jadeja overstepped, and put down three catches, all combine to show it for the patchy display it actually was.
If West Indies didn’t capitalise on such looseness, then it had only itself to blame. There were a whopping 66 scoreless deliveries out of 120, 66 of their final tally came through fours and sixes. Rotation of the strike was given the complete go-by, particularly when Dwayne Smith and Chris Gayle were in the middle, and India was allowed to get on top, a position it seldom relinquished even though West Indies ended with a bang, picking up 54 off the last five overs and 21 off the final over of the innings from a completely off-colour Jadeja.
That was about the only time West Indies batted out of first gear. Otherwise, it was a constant and fruitless hunt for timing. Smith’s first 19 balls produced only 2 runs, by which time Gayle had already been put down by Ashwin at first slip off Mohammed Shami when yet to open his account.
Both Gayle and Smith simply couldn’t lay bat to ball against Bhuvneshwar, who found lovely shape and repeatedly went past the outside edge. He only gave away a single in each of his three overs, finishing with the somewhat incredible figures of 3-0-3-0, the spell that gave India a wonderful headstart and left West Indies with plenty of catching up to do.
Ashwin finally put Smith out of his misery by hanging on to an excellent return catch diving to his left; in the interim, Gayle had found Yuvraj Singh in a generous mood as he put down the easiest of chances in the deep off Mishra, who like Ashwin was once again truly outstanding and had another Man of the Match award to show for his efforts.
India must count itself extremely fortunate that Gayle, thrown lifelines on 0 and 19, didn’t really hurt them. With the fielders unwilling to catch anything, he was inevitably dismissed run out after responding to a suicidal call from Marlon Samuels, the third member of the top-heavy troika that set the tone for the sluggish pace of the innings.
Ashwin and Mishra, meanwhile, ensured that India built considerably on the advantage provided by Bhuvneshwar. Ashwin’s variations were delivered with exemplary control, while Mishra’s versatile bag of the leg-spin, the top-spinner and the googly completely bemused the batsmen. Samuels, as good a player of spin as there is, was drawn forward and stumped, Dwayne Bravo, another fine player of the turning ball, was trapped in front first ball by a googly. Twenty20? Child’s play, Mishra would say.
It was left to Simmons to provide some momentum later on as he took a liking to Jadeja, who was also bashed around by Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. In all, he went for four sixes, including three in the final over, finishing with 3 for 48.
West Indies began as well with the ball as they ended with the bat, even if Samuel Badree was somewhat fortunate to win a shout for leg before against Dhawan in the first over from umpire Richard Illingworth with the ball appearing headed down leg. It was 1 for 1, but it was just for one over and a bit that the West Indian delight lasted.
Kohli did the initial running, latching on to Badree first and then targeting Krishmar Santokie, the left-arm medium pacer, even as Rohit quietly played himself in. Then, as he found his confidence and his bearings with a little time in the middle, Rohit matched his partner stroke for stroke during an entertaining, pleasing second-wicket stand full of glorious strokes either side of the wicket.
Rohit in Twenty20 cricket can occasionally sacrifice elegance and correctness for brute force, but Kohli makes no concession to orthodoxy. His unhurried style, this despite his half-century coming off just 34 deliveries, was an absolute treat, wristy flicks through the on-side dotting his essay even as Rohit played the pull, the paddle, the lap and the scoop to go with meaty blows over the infield on the off-side.
Darren Sammy threw everything at the Indians, including the off-spin of Narine that was expected to be an influential part of the game but that was handled with due diligence by the two right-hand batsmen. There was also intelligent rotation of the strike and judicious running between the wickets, lessons West Indies will do well to imbibe going forward. Suresh Raina had labelled the West Indians ‘six-hitters’ in the pre-match press conference and insisted that it struggled to rotate strike; West Indies seemed intent on proving him right, much to its own detriment.