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WI switch to T20 mode as CPL stars look to topple India



Big picture: IPL heroes vs CPL stars

Though West Indies failed to qualify for the main event of the last T20 World Cup – and the upcoming ODI World Cup – their T20I side seems to be in better health than their ODI and Test teams. Either side of the T20 World Cup’s first round in 2022, West Indies challenged New Zealand in a 2-1 series defeat at home, and beat South Africa 2-1 away. They will be bolstered further by the return of Nicholas Pooran, who propelled MI New York to the MLC title last Sunday with a sensational 137 not out off 55 balls. Allrounders Jason Holder, Odean Smith and Akeal Hosein are also back in the mix.

India will be without Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj for the T20I leg of the West Indies and USA tours, but their line-up still drips with power and class, thanks to their IPL heroes. After having lit up his Test debut with 171 in Dominica, Yashasvi Jaiswal could potentially make his T20I debut on Thursday in Tarouba, and open alongside Shubman Gill. There could also be a debut for Tilak Varma, who has been the engine room of Mumbai Indians’ middle order since Hardik Pandya moved to Gujarat Titans in the IPL. Varma will now combine with Pandya to marshal India’s middle order.

This could be another opportunity for Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan to prove their white-ball chops and firm up their cases to be India’s back-up wicketkeeper behind KL Rahul, who is on the road to recovery from injury.

For West Indies, this series marks the beginning of a long T20 home season, with the CPL set to begin on August 16, three days after the end of the T20I series against India in Lauderhill, USA. Strong performances in this series – and the following CPL – could help West Indies shape their side for their home T20 World Cup next year.

Form guide

West Indies WLWLW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)

In the spotlight: Powell and Mukesh

Rovman Powell is among West Indies’ leaders in white-ball cricket, but he was dropped for the last two ODIs against India, with Keacy Carty replacing him. He had also been dropped from the ODI side during the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. But Powell is now set to return, this time as the captain of the T20I team, and with a point to prove – particularly against the spinners. Powell has a strike rate of 115.03 only while facing spin in T20 cricket, while that number jumps up to 153.20 against pace.

Mukesh Kumar had to slog for years to make it to India’s squad, but if he gets picked on Thursday, he will end up making his Test, ODI and T20I debuts in a fortnight in the West Indies. Mukesh usually operates in the lower 130kph range, but he can get the ball to skid and seam off the pitch like he did in the ODI series decider in Tarouba on Tuesday. With a number of senior quicks absent once again, Mukesh is likely to get a good run in the five-match T20I series.

Team news: Will India pick an extra spinner?

This will be West Indies’ first T20I under coach Daren Sammy, but there might not be too many changes from the team that toppled South Africa in South Africa. ODI captain Shai Hope might compete with Johnson Charles for the No.3 spot. West Indies will look up to the returning Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer to counter India’s spinners. Hosein could be West Indies’ main spinner after having returned from the MLC.

West Indies (probable): 1 Brandon King, 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Johnson Charles/Shai Hope (wk), 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Rovman Powell (capt), 7 Roston Chase, 8 Jason Holder, 9 Romario Shepherd/Odean Smith, 10 Akeal Hosein, 11 Alzarri Joseph/Oshane Thomas

If the pitch that was used for the final ODI is rolled out once again, India might consider bringing in an extra spinner. And it remains to be seen whether the visitors can fit both Kishan and Samson in their XI.

India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Ishan Kishan/Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Tilak Varma, 5 Hardik Pandya (capt), 6 Suryakumar Yadav, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal/Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mukesh Kumar/Umran Malik/Avesh Khan

Pitch and conditions: Rain could interrupt the game

The Brian Lara Cricket Academy has hosted just one T20I so far, in 2022, when India piled up 190 for 6, and then defended it with considerable ease against West Indies. The Tarouba pitch is usually friendly to batters, but a used one could offer more assistance to the bowlers. The forecast for Thursday isn’t particularly promising, with a 40% chance of rain.

Stats and trivia

  • Suryakumar Yadav has a strike rate of 175.76 in T20Is – the highest among all batters who have faced at least 250 balls in the format.
  • India are set to play their 200th T20I on Thursday. Only Pakistan (223) have played more T20Is than India.
  • Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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