Some of the key takeaways from the West Indies series

Chennai: Fresh from the Asia Cup triumph in UAE, in-between the much tougher tour Down Under, came the West Indies series at home. The Caribbeans, who have been perennial under-performers over the past decade, were not expected to provide too much challenge to India. As expected, they succumbed in the Test series.

However, surprisingly, they provided tough challenge in the ODIs, especially in the first three ODIs before losing the plot in the last two ODIs. In the T20Is, West Indies put together a second string team, sans big names like Gayle, Evin Lewis and Andre Russell and faced a 0-3 whitewash.

For India, though many deemed this series as inconsequential, the whole series gave a lot of takeaways for India. Prithvi Shaw made a grand entry into the international arena with a man of the series performance in the Tests and India found a new batsman at Number 4 in ODIs in Ambati Rayudu and a left arm pacer in Khaleel Ahmed. News Today looks back at the whole tour.

NEW-GEN TEST OPENER

With Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay struggling to get runs in the longest version of the game, India’s hunt for a new opener began midway through the England Test series. After a disappointing outing with the bat for Murali Vijay, who aggregated only 26 runs from four innings in the Test series in England, he was dropped for the last two Tests and the selectors named Prithvi Shaw as his replacement.

Though he didn’t get a game, for the West Indies tour, Dhawan and Vijay were dropped and the 18-year-old Shaw was given a Test debut in Rajkot. He had a dream debut as he notched up his first Test 100, becoming the youngest Indian to score a Test century on debut. What was more impressive was his attacking and fearless style of play.

In the second Test, he scored a 50 and in the second innings, fittingly hit the winning runs. The 18-year-old finished the series with 234 runs, including some records to his name and that was enough for him to earn the man-of-the-series award. With such a performance, the Mumbai lad has staked claim for the opener’s slot in the first Test against Australia.

No. 4 ISSUE SOLVED

Despite having a magical top three in Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the middle order was always unsettled for India, especially No. 4, right from the 2015 World Cup. Players like K L Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey were given many opportunities but none could cement their place in that spot. Then came IPL in which India discard Ambati Rayudu had a fairytale season in the yellow jersey.

He was soon included in the ODI team touring England but a failure in the Yo-Yo Test curtailed his international return. After going through a fitness regime, he finally cleared it and made his international return in the Asia Cup, scoring two 50s and continued his good form against the West Indies. In the Mumbai ODI, he scored a century, becoming the first player outside the top-three in India to score a 100 since January 2017. His performance earned praise from skipper Kohli and it looks like he has solved the No. 4 conundrum for India and we can see him continue in that position for at least until the 2019 World Cup.

EMERGENCE OF LEFT ARM PACER

With the World Cup around the corner, India is desperate to have a left arm pacer in the side having tried Jaydev Unadkat and Barinder Sran in the past. Young Khaleel Ahmed was included in the Asia Cup squad and made his debut in the opener against Hong Kong. In a match that slipped away from India’s hands, Khaleel took three wickets and helped India clinch victory, impressing on his debut.

In the West Indies series at home, he featured in four matches and fit well alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, picking up seven wickets. Being used as a first-change bowler, Ahmed got the lateral movement and provided variation to the Indian bowling attack. In the T20Is, he impressed with his yorkers and challenged the batsmen. Khaleel has made a good start to his international career and it remains to be seen how the 20-year old performs Down Under.

DHONI, DK AND PANT

The selection committee surprised one and all by leaving out M S Dhoni and including Rishabh Pant in the T20Is, though the chief selector M S K Prasad said Dhoni wasn’t dropped. With no more T20Is until the 2019 World cup, which is also expected to be Dhoni’s swansong, it looks likely that Dhoni might have played his last T20I. However, Rishabh Pant, who has cemented his place in the Test team, was not given the chance to keep wickets and it was the more experienced Dinesh Karthik who was the keeper in the T20Is against West Indies.

Dinesh Karthik has established himself in the T20I side after the last-ball six to clinch the Nidhahas trophy and was once again impressive in the first T20I, helping India win the game with a responsible innings.

Rishabh Pant, who faltered in the ODI series and the first two T20Is, returned to form, scoring a 50 in the last T20I in Chennai. With the T20 series in Australia starting 21 November, it remains to be seen whether Rishabh Pant would get a chance to keep wickets, which could also serve as a practice for him before the Test series.

Aaditya Anand M