India will now hope that star batter Virat Kohli also regains his form when they take on a struggling West Indies in the potentially series-deciding second T20 International in Kolkata on Friday. The touring West Indies side has been far from being at its best and has failed to trouble the hosts in any of the matches so far. After being outclassed 0-3 in the ODI leg in Ahmedabad, the Kieron Pollard-led team was expected to give India some challenge in its favorite T20 format, especially after a 3-2 win over England in its last series at home.
But they hardly managed to trouble the hosts in the first T20I in Kolkata on Wednesday, going down by six wickets. Another win and it will be a third successive series win for Rohit Sharma after being appointed the full-time captain for Team India. The only concern for India has been Kohli’s form and he would definitely want a bigger knock than the scores of 8, 18, 0, and 17 so far in the assignment. Rohit is confident that he would come good and has asked both critics and media to spare him the constant scrutiny.
On his part, Rohit knows the importance of going hard in the powerplay, something that was in full display in his 19-ball 40 when he took Odean Smith to the cleaners in an over that conceded 22 runs. With Ishan Kishan looking ordinary and struggling to get going at the other end, Rohit made the bulk of the 58 runs that India scored in the powerplay, something that meant they never fell behind the 158-run chase despite losing three quick wickets in the middle.
After Rohit got out in the eighth over, Kohli had the perfect opportunity to return among runs and seal the chase. But that was not the case even though Kohli looked fluent in his short stay of 13-ball 17. On any other day his inside-out shot would have been a clear boundary but this time he hit straight to the fielder. As for Ishan, the most expensive (Rs 15.25 crore) buy in the IPL 2022 auction, he was not able to score freely and failed to rotate strike when Rohit looked in sublime touch.
But thanks to Rohit’s innings at the top, things did not go much out of India’s reach as Suryakumar Yadav and Venkatesh Iyer applied themselves beautifully to seal the chase. With India opting for a six-bowler combination featuring pace bowling all-rounder Venkatesh, in-form batter Shreyas Iyer had to sit out of the opening game. It remains to be seen what will be Rohit’s ploy in the second T20I which can seal the fate of the series for India. “We were very clear with Shreyas, we told him the team wants that option (of an all-rounder) going into the World Cup. We need that option in the middle, someone who can bowl,” Rohit said after the match.
“A lot of things go into deciding the playing XI, the opposition, the conditions, the dimensions of the ground. Yes, sometimes it can be tough for the guys missing out but we are making sure we are giving out a very clear message. Unfortunately, we want to put the team first.” India will also be fretting over injury to pacer Deepak Chahar who sustained a blow to his right hand while fielding and could not complete his quota. Looking for their first win of the tour, it would be a make-or-break match for the Windies.