A few of the West Indies cricketers had gone to watch Lionel Messi play in Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup quarter-final clash against Charlotte, at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday.
Whether Messi’s performance turned out to be an inspiration for them is tough to say. But at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium on Saturday, which is not too far from the DRV PNK Stadium where Messi and his teammates thrashed Charlotte, the Windies did put in a shade better effort with the bat in the fourth T20I against India as they reached 178/8.
Shimron Hetmyer, finally finding some form, top-scored with 61 off 39 balls while Shai Hope (45 off 29 balls) contributed as well, replacing Johnson Charles, ensuring the Windies put up a competitive total at least after opting to bat first on a wicket aiding strokeplay.
India though wouldn’t be too disappointed with their bowling effort. The Windies were progressing nicely at 54/1 in the sixth over, but quick strikes from Arshdeep Singh, who had struggled in the previous games, and the in-form Kuldeep Yadav reduced the home team to 57/4 in seven overs. Injudicious shot-making from some of the Windies batters, including Nicholas Pooran, made matters easier for the Indian bowlers.
Kuldeep Yadav (second from left) with teammates after dismissing Nicholas Pooran for 1 on Saturday, as India look to level the series with one game to go. AP/PTI
Fortunately, with Hope looking solid in his first T20I appearance in one-and-a-half years, Hetmyer was a little more cautious in terms of his shot selection as the duo stitched a much-needed 49-run stand for the fifth wicket to steady the ship for the Windies. Hope looked set for a well-deserved half-century, but gave it away with a needless stroke off Yuzvendra Chahal’s bowling.
Hetmyer, however, continued till the final over of the Windies innings with Odean Smith (replacing pacer Alzarri Joseph) lending good support in their eighth-wicket stand. Smith also finished it off with a maximum off Arshdeep that took the hosts close to 180.
Left-arm quick Arshdeep did concede 17 off the 20th over, but what matters more is his three wickets that checked the Windies’ progress in good batting conditions.
To speak of Kuldeep, he continued to vary his lengths well to earn the scalps of Pooran and Windies captain Rovman Powell in his very first over. It was only Hetmyer who could hit the left-arm bowler for a four and a six.
Praise for Mukesh
Mukesh Kumar has provided Team India with options ahead of the Asia Cup and World Cup. The Bengal pacer has shown the potential to serve India in all formats and his workload will be managed accordingly.
“Very happy with the way he has progressed... the thought process, the discussion we had with him and his approach towards the game is fabulous,” bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said on the eve of India’s fourth T20I against the Windies in Lauderhill, Florida, on Friday.
“You need someone like him to come here on a tour and play against tough opponents on a different wicket which is never easy. But the way he has gone about it and the character he has shown (makes us) extremely happy.
“Since we know he is capable of playing all three formats, we need to be smart with his workload management. He has played a lot of domestic cricket and got quality skills.”
Mukesh will be in contention for the Asia Cup when the squad is picked next week.