Mumbai: India will look to find the ‘perfect’ balance in their playing eleven when they take on a resurgent West Indies in the fourth One-day International here on Monday.
Going with five specialist bowlers in Pune on Saturday did not work for India, who ended up as the losing side for the first time in the home series against the West Indies.
With the series surprisingly tied at 1-1 and two matches to go, Virati Kohli’s team finds itself in a must-win situation at the Cricket Club of India (CCI). Credit must be given to the West Indies, who have not only moved on from a dismal Test series but have given the formidable hosts a run for their money in the one-day format.
As Kohli pointed out after the 43-run loss in the third ODI, the return of Kedar Jadhav from injury will give the team a much needed depth in both the batting and bowling department.
“You will always drift to one side when you don’t have the balance. We have to think about the perfect balance we need,” said the skipper after the defeat.
An unstable middle-order and lack of runs from M S Dhoni’s bat are another issues facing India, not just for Monday’s fixture but also in the long run with 15 games remaining before the World Cup in England next year.
Having lost his place in the T20 team, Dhoni is in desperate need of runs in the limited opportunities that are left ahead of the 50-over showpiece event.
Ambati Rayudu (22) did get a start in Pune but if the right-hander wants to hold on to the number four spot, he will have to keep scoring consistently.
Rishabh Pant, who batted at five ahead of Dhoni in the previous game, has been his usual aggressive self but a significant score in his debut ODI series is still awaited.
Amid all the uncertainty, Jadhav’s return in the middle-order is more than welcome. His fitness has been a concern in the recent past but he looked good in his first competitive game, played during the Deodhar Trophy, after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Besides his powerful hitting, his off-spin could also come handy.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who have had twin failures, are due for a big partnership.
The biggest positive for the hosts has been the form of skipper Kohli, who struck his third hundred in a row during the third ODI, becoming the first Indian to do so.
While most will back Kohli to get another hundred at the CCI, the skipper would be expecting a much improved performance from his team.
On the bowling front, Jasprit Bumrah made a stunning comeback, clinching four wickets last night. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, conceded runs in the death overs but trust him to bounce back.
The role of both the spinners — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav — will be crucial in restricting the opposition batsmen.
For the West Indies, their biggest asset has been wicket-keeper Shai Hope, who has played two key innings, a 123 in Visakhapatnam followed by a crucial 95 in Pune.
He would be hoping for another big knock tomorrow and so will Shimron Hetmyer, who failed to convert his start in the third game.
The 21-year-old southpaw, who had scores of 106 and 94 before the Pune game, would be the one watch out for again.
Apart from these two star players, Windies would be hoping that the likes of Kieron Powell, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Rovman Powell fire in the crucial contest.
The experienced Marlon Samuels shone with the ball last night with three wickets but his bat has not done the talking so far. Skipper Jason Holder would also be itching to make a match-winning contribution.
The bowlers would have taken confidence from bundling out India in Pune. Pacer Obed McCoy and off-spinner Ashley Nurse will be high on confidence as the West Indies aim to take the series lead.
With the encounter on Monday, international cricket returns to the CCI, which last hosted a Test in 2009 and an ODI back in 2006.