Cricket World Cup 2019: Once mighty giants of cricket, West Indies simply collapsed before India

The Men in Blue (and sometimes orange) continue the winning streak and snag the second spot in the points table.

 |  5-minute read |   28-06-2019
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The last time India and the West Indies met in England in a World Cup match, cricketing history was made — the face of ODI cricket changed forever. 

Favourites West Indies were beaten by underdogs India in the 1983 championship final, and though this encounter was not as grand an occasion as the last time, the encounter between the two teams in the 2019 World Cup was expected to be an exciting affair, given the thriller the Windies had produced with New Zealand and the glorious way they had thrashed Pakistan in their opening game.

But far from the thrills of that historic final, the clash between Virat’s warriors and the mercurial ‘men in maroon’ became a no-contest almost throughout the 85 overs it lasted. To many afficionados of the game, the decline of the West Indies, once giants on the cricketing pitch, now unsure and inconsistent, indeed came as a sorry sight.

In a systematic and thorough demolition, India scored a convincing 125-run victory as the Windies floundered in crucial moments.

india_won_by_43_runs_062819014713.jpgDavid and Goliath of cricket: India had once defeated the mighty West Indies in 1983, taking the World Cup home. (Photo: Reuters)

The game began on a lucky note for Jason Holder’s men as Rohit Sharma was given out caught behind after India won the toss and chose to bat. Though the on-field umpire ruled Rohit not out, Kemar Roach felt certain the Indian star had nicked it to the keeper. The decision was referred for a review and replays showed a slight spike as the ball went through the gap between bat and pad. While the third umpire quickly ruled it out, a closer analysis convinced most cricket connoisseurs that the ball had missed the bat and instead, kissed the pads.

It was a crucial blow since Rohit was beginning to exhibit his repertoire of strokes and had just pulled Roach for a six.

Virat Kohli joined KL Rahul and both put on a steady 69-run partnership before Rahul was bowled by Holder on the verge of his fifty.

Indian fans prayed the No.4 conundrum would not play up again and Vijay Shankar would settle the debate in his favour — hitting three boundaries, Shankar looked confident in the presence of his captain. Just when it seemed he had settled down, he fell to a moving delivery from Kemar Roach that most batsmen would find difficult to negotiate. Seaming away after pitching, it took Shankar’s edge to Shai Hope behind the wicket. The slow pace and spongy bounce of the wicket soon got India into trouble as Kedhar Jadhav — promoted to No.5 — also edged a wide delivery to Hope.

collage-1_062819020603.jpgBowling Hard: Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami helped India continue their winning streak. (Photo: Reuters)

After a brief Dhoni-Virat show, when Kohli mistimed a pull to midwicket, a hush descended on the stadium packed with Indian fans. The score read 180 for 5 — but as Hardik Pandya joined forces with Dhoni, the duo soon dispelled the dark clouds in a vital partnership that eventually helped India to a respectable total of 268. Dhoni stayed unbeaten on 56 at the end but a missed stumping by Shai Hope helped to shift the scales in India’s favour at the mid-innings break.

The West Indian response seemed slow and ragged from the start.

Bumrah and Shami were aggressive and kept the mighty Chris Gayle under control. Ultimately, he mistimed a pull to get caught at mid-off and the Windies were on the backfoot. Soon, Shami’s peach of a delivery rattled Shai Hope’s stumps and dealt a decisive blow. If Mitchell Starc’s yorker to clean bowl Ben Stokes is being considered as the ‘ball of the tournament’, Shami’s delivery to Hope could also be a strong contender — the ball held a perfect seam position throughout and after pitching came in from a good length to hit the timber.

Although Nicholas Pooran and Sunil Ambris meandered to a 55-run partnership, once Hardik Pandya got Ambris leg before wicket to a slower one, it triggered a collapse whereby Windies lost the last 8 wickets for 72 runs. Despite not having much to do, Indian spinners did chip in with 3 wickets between themselves, knocking West Indies out of the World Cup as well as moving a step closer to a Semi Final berth. 

india_062819020801.jpgDespite a few glaring gaps, can India repeat history? (Photo: India Today)

The performance of the ‘men in blue’ clearly exhibited the bowling riches they have at their disposal. Despite the absence of India’s top choice new ball bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, his replacement, Mohammad Shami, has performed par excellence. On two slow-paced and low bounce wickets, the Indian middle order has been badly exposed but their weaknesses have been concealed by fantastic spells by the Bumrah-Shami duo. India’s recent elevation to the No.1 ODI ranking must be credited to its bowlers who are now feared around the world. On several of the worst batting days, bowlers have managed to salvage wins for team India.

But as the business end of the tournament is all set to roll, India faces a few critical questions. The glaring one is — who do they play at No. 4 position and why? Vijay Shankar has looked good fleetingly but has not been utilized much after the Pakistan match with the ball. If his “3 Dimensions” are not convincing enough for skipper Virat Kohli, then isn’t it better for the team to play a batsman in his place? 

The clamour for Rishabh Pant to be included in the playing eleven has been rising with Dinesh Karthik also in the running after a terrific last year with the bat where he won many a close game for India. Another tricky question is whether Bhuvneshwar Kumar should be reinstated since he also brings more depth to the batting? But after Mohammad Shami’s brilliance, it’ll be a tough task to drop him, as originally contemplated.

Will India risk any changes at all to jeopardise the balance of its winning combination — or will it be flexible enough to adjust to the changing scenario? The right answers to these nagging questions can allow India its quest for the coveted trophy!

Also read: India vs Afghanistan: How Afghanistan won, even though it lost!

Writer

Rajan Mahan and Siddhaarth Mahan Rajan Mahan and Siddhaarth Mahan

Rajan Mahan is a professor of journalism at the University of Rajasthan and Siddhaarth Mahan, is a state level cricketer, actor and writer.

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