It wasn’t quite the script that most had envisaged at the start of the series, but West Indies have ensured the pressure will be on the Indian batsmen in the second one-dayer here on Friday.
World champions India have lost only one match at home this year, and they have faced tougher opponents than the Windies in the course of that dominant run. However, a failure of the top order - albeit a weakened one - meant India had to rely on numbers 10 and 11 to take them over the line in the first match in Cuttack.
India may be leading the series 1-0 at this point, but both teams will go into the second ODI feeling pretty much neck-and-neck, given how close the previous ODI was. West Indies will also remember - as will India - that the Test match immediately preceding the ODIs was thrillingly close. Given that, both teams will go into the second ODI neither feeling over-confident about having a large advantage over the other and neither low on confidence. Also given that both previous close results were arrived at after many batsmen on either side played loose shots, this match could well come down to who makes fewer errors.
The Indians are not likely to change the combination that won them the first ODI. The track at the ACA Stadium is expected to heavily favour batsmen, with the director of operations at the ground - former India keeper MSK Prasad - saying that there would be little help for slower bowlers and the seamers would have to step up for both teams. In such a scenario, India will stick to the pace trio of UmeshYadav, Varun Aaron and Vinay Kumar. The batting selects itself, with none of Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, ViratKohli, VirenderSehwag or GautamGambhirdroppable, and RavindraJadeja providing the all-round option.
The only change Sehwag could mull over is one of tactics. Both UmeshYadav and Varun Aaron consistently hit speeds of above 140 kmph in the first ODI, and throwing the new ball to both of them instead of to Umesh and Vinay Kumar might be a gamble worth taking. Aaron has not had the new ball in both ODIs he has played so far, but it's still a gamble worth taking.
They will feel good about how they have managed to compete with an on-paper superior Indian team, but they will also be a little hurt at the fact that they couldn't quite finish the job off. Darren Sammy will be justified in demanding more from his batsmen, many of whom perished to bad shots. The only shining exception was Darren Bravo, who enhanced the reputation he had built for himself in the Test series with another fine knock in the first ODI. Each of the other batsmen in the top 7 got to double figures but none could make it count - which is something West Indies will have to correct. The bowlers made them competitive in the first match, but if the batsmen had done their job, the bowlers would have not merely made them compete, but would have won them the match.
The only bowler who didn't quite make an impact was spinner Anthony Martin - but then he did castle Man-of-the-Match Rohit Sharma, so he could yet save his spot in the eleven. If he doesn't though, West Indies have the exciting Sunil Narine in their ranks to take up the spinning duties.
Scattered thunderstorms have been forecast for tomorrow's match, which might cause a few disruptions. The many spectators who will throng the sold-out venue will, of course, be hoping for thunderstorms of a different kind - from the bat of VirenderSehwag.