FEBRUARY 18, 2022
Brief Scorecard: India 186 for 5 (Pant 52, Kohli 52, V Iyer 33, Chase 3-25) beat West Indies 178 for 3 (Powell 68*, Pooran 62, Bhuvneshwar 1-29) by eight runs
West Indies lost again, but this time they took the game deep and made India edgy. Even in the last over, with 25 runs required for victory, the tourists refused to throw in the towel. Rovman Powell (68, 36 balls) hit two towering sixes off Harshal Patel, prompting India captain Rohit Sharma to assemble his troops for a mini-conference.
The two sixes had brought the equation down to 11 runs off two balls. As it turned out, the decision from the on-field conference was to take pace off the ball. A slower delivery outside off restricted Powell to a single, as India secured their 100th T20I victory. They beat the West Indies by eight runs in the second T20I to clinch the three-match series, on the heels of their ODI series clean-sweep.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 18, 2022
An old hand contributed immensely to this victory. The game was pretty even, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar started the penultimate over. The Caribbeans needed 29 runs off the last two overs, Nicholas Pooran was batting on 62 and riding on a bit of luck, he and Powell were regularly finding the boundary. From India’s perspective, Pooran’s wicket was vital and a Kumar off-cutter did the trick. The left-hander had to reach out to strike the ball, skied it and Ravi Bishnoi took an excellent catch, back-peddling from extra cover. Kumar conceded just four runs in that over to put his team in the ascendency. “Experience does matter,” Sharma said at the post-match presentation.
The over was also Kumar’s redemption, after dropping Powell off his own bowling on 38. The catch went so high that Rishabh Pant running in about 30 yards and going for it with the advantage of the big gloves probably would have been the better option. But the medium pacer called early, settled underneath the ball and backed himself to take it. But the dew-soaked Kookaburra popped out. The skipper kicked the ball in frustration.
Earlier, Pooran was dropped on 21 by Bishnoi off Yuzvendra Chahal’s bowling and together with Powell he stitched a 100-run partnership off 60 deliveries to threaten an upset. In the end, India’s quality shone through. They were always favorites to win this game after posting 186/5. The West Indies, 178/3, were so near yet so far.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 18, 2022
Kohli unshackles himself
Virat Kohli batted freely and it augured well for him and India. The second ball he faced from Akeal Hosein was a touch too straight and instead of playing it towards mid-on or mid-wicket, which he usually does early in his innings, Kohli used the wrists to find the boundary. That’s positive intent at the outset.
A couple of deliveries later, Hosein beat Kohli, the ball dipping and spinning past the outside edge. Kohli in his current vintage would have grown cagey to such early jitters. But on Friday, he was in the mood to score runs. He brought out the sweep and beat the long leg fielder, who was moved squarer.
Kohli is still India’s most popular cricketer across the globe. Even at Eden Gardens, which is Sharma’s happy hunting ground, the biggest cheer was reserved for him, albeit by 2,500-odd fans in this game due to Covid-forced restrictions. So when he welcomed Jason Holder with a four over cover, the noise from the Club House upper tier was duly magnified. In the next over, when he took back-to-back boundaries off Romario Shepherd, the former captain’s intent became even clearer; that he would go after the bowling, ignoring the odd play-and-miss.
It wasn’t a case of indiscretion being the better part of valour. Refreshingly, it was about Kohli finding the right tempo. His last half-century in this format came at the T20 World Cup against Pakistan, where he had to delve into every ounce of his class to counter a marauding Shaheen Shah Afridi on a challenging Dubai pitch. With wickets falling at the other end, he didn’t have the leeway to go into attack mode.
A game against the West Indies doesn’t carry the pressure of an India-Pakistan fixture. The Eden Gardens pitch was excellent and the West Indies bowling pretty average. Kohli had the opportunity to cut loose. He rightly chose the fourth gear.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 18, 2022
Sharma couldn’t make use of an early reprieve, Suryakumar Yadav flattered to deceive, but Kohli was setting himself up for a back-end onslaught. A six off Roston Chase took him to his 30th T20I half-century. It came with a touch of luck, Holder misjudging the skier and letting it go for a six. The rub of the green hasn’t gone his way of late. The Holder misjudgement was a welcome change. But Kohli couldn’t capitalise on it.
His dismissal was an anti-climax. After playing so well, Kohli walked down to a Chase delivery, got beaten in the air and was bowled through the gate. A 41-ball 52, including seven fours and a six, was still very encouraging.
Not that Kohli’s batting has fallen into a rut. He scored two half-centuries in the three-match ODI series in South Africa. The home ODI series against the West Indies was underwhelming, but even when Kohli was getting out cheaply, he wasn’t looking out of touch. For an elongated period now, though, the great batsman has lost his big-scoring mojo, but is working his socks off at the nets to get it back.
After the first T20I, he was deep in conversation with Rahul Dravid, while the post-match presentation was on, a few yards away from them. He had perished to a spinner in that game, trying to clear the wide long-off boundary and the hand gestures suggested that the conversation was about his dismissal.
On Friday, as the players were doing their warm-ups before the match, Kohli was taking throw-downs at the nets and it was a longish session. A lot of things happened in the past few months after he stepped down from T20I captaincy, was stood down from ODI captaincy and his relinquishment of Test leadership. On Friday, however, Kohli looked to be enjoying himself, batting without the excess baggage of pressure.
“I had decided, when I went in, to stay positive but then we lost a few wickets. I still wanted to keep going but (it was) unfortunate I got out. I was happy with my intent that I wanted to play my shots. Sometimes you play with responsibility over a period of time, you tend to ask if you want to play the big shots early. You don’t want to be reckless but at the same time, you want to play your shots. That’s the balance you strive for. Today I was happy with that balance,” Kohli said during the innings break.
After his departure, Rishabh Pant took over and his 52 not out off 28 balls eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides. The Man-of-the-Match award was well earned. Venkatesh Iyer, too, played a nice cameo, a dropped catch notwithstanding.
Courtesy/Source: Indian Express