Virat Kohli, on way to his 54, on Sunday
Dhaka: For those who saw ascendancy in West Indies cricket through the T20 format, Team India seemed hell bent on squashing that myth on Sunday.
Don’t make a mistake, this is the subcontinent and we will continue calling the shots, seems to be the message sent out by Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co. to their rivals. And what better way than to thrash the defending champions by seven wickets with two balls remaining.
With a show of unmatched strength and dominance, India took a step closer to the semi-finals, their second consecutive victory in as many matches reaffirming their superiority. The only blot being the failure to improve their net run-rate by pushing the match into the final over after being 119 for two after 17.
But all’s fair in victory. Dhoni didn’t complain and felt they would get a chance to compensate in the remaining matches.
The 10-minute delay at the start of the Indian innings because of a confusion in India’s target — eventually 130 was needed — may have affected Shikhar Dhawan’s concentration. How else would you describe his dismissal to Samuel Badree in the first over!
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma ensured it had no effect during their 106-run partnership for the second wicket. While Virat was his usual self during his 54 off 41 balls, Rohit held the innings together with a disciplined 62 not out off 55 balls.
West Indies players are supposed to be the lifeline of the Indian Premier League. Eight of the players from the current team play for various franchises, know the corresponding strengths and weaknesses of their Indian counterparts and vice-versa. The conditions are also too familiar and neither team were expected to enjoy the advantage.
Yet, in such a contest, the Indians proved their authority. The spinners once again bowled with supremacy, the fielding improved despite a couple of dropped chances, and the batsmen then assured us that all’s well.
Only Yuvraj Singh’s form seems a bit of a worry, though. He dropped a skier off Gayle and was dismissed for 10. Dhoni, though, backed him to the hilt and that should be reassuring for the all-rounder in the coming matches.
West Indies never got the desired momentum, courtesy the regular fall of wickets. Had 21 runs not come off the last over bowled by Ravindra Jadeja, the defending champions could have ended up in poor light.
Suresh Raina had possibly leaked a secret from the team’s analysis of their opponents when he announced at the media conference on Saturday that Darren Sammy and Co. had no idea of rotating the strike against the spinners. The same was much on display during their innings as batsman after batsman were caught on the ropes going for the big hits.
On Chris Gayle depended their innings. But he cut a sorry figure, struggling to middle the ball during his 34 off 33 balls. Since his 75 not out in the World T20 semi-final in 2012, Gayle has had five single-digit scores in eight matches, with no half-century. He scored 43 and 36 versus England in the lead up to this tournament.
His dismissal once more showed his poor running between the wickets. Marlon Samuels cut the ball to point and set off with Gayle responding at a caterpillar’s pace. Mohammed Shami’s throw was bang on target for Dhoni to whip off the bails.
India stuck to their tested formula of fielding three spinners and deciding to bowl to save them from the dew. The match was played on the same pitch that witnessed the high-scoring Pakistan-Australia clash. Yet, West Indies failed to give their innings a direction, finishing on 129 for seven.
The Indians opened the attack with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami, who performed their task to perfection. Bhuvneshwar was exceptional in his three-over spell, and then as the spinners took over, there was no looking back.
Mishra (2/18) was again a revelation, and being named Man of Match for a second time, came as no surprise. The leg-spinner’s success has helped him gain confidence and he’s not afraid to flight the ball and entice the batsman into committing mistakes. Samuels and Dwayne Bravo were both victims of his guile and were dismissed off consecutive deliveries.
While Samuels was comprehensively beaten by the flight to one that was tossed up and dipping, Bravo failed to read the googly. Darren Sammy prevented the hat-trick, but couldn’t thwart the innings from taking a nosedive.
Ravichandran Ashwin was equally impressive as the flow of runs choked in the middle overs. West Indies were struggling for oxygen during the slog until two consecutive sixes by Lendl Simmons provided some relief in the last over. Narine added another off the penultimate ball, and all that spoiled Jadeja’s figures.
But all that made no difference to the end result.