cricketThe West Indians began their tour-India campaign with two back-to-back 50-over practice games against India-A in Mumbai. In the first match at the Brabourne stadium on October 3, West Indies batted first and were bowled out for 148 in 38.1 overs. India’s A team came up with an overpowering reply to score 149/1 in just 25.3 overs and humbled the visitors by 9 wickets. Two days later at the nearby Wankhede stadium, India batted first and scored 282 and registered a 16-run victory after restricting West Indians to 266. For the tourists, Marlon Samuels top-scored with 56 at Brabourne stadium and Ramdin made 102 at the Wankhede. For India, the superbly talented Unmukt Chand, ended up as the top scorer in both Mumbai venues with 79 and 101. The performance of the visitors in two series-openers could have made India captain MS Dhoni a bit overconfident of himself. And as he does most times, Dhoni asked the opposition to bat first after he won the toss at Kochi. To his utter dismay, West Indies batsmen tore the Indian bowling attack to shreds and hoisted 321/6. It was too good a total to be easily defended and India in reply were bowled out for 197 in 41 overs to lose the first game of the series by 124 runs.

The bitter fact that complacency can sometimes boomerang, should have been factored in Dhoni’s scheme of things as he shook hands with West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo before the toss for the first ODI game at Kochi on Wednesday. Just because West Indies lost two Mumbai games against India-A, it didn’t automatically mean that the side was weaker. But the India skipper was also fooled by the absence of Sunil Narine and Chris Gayle as he asked the West Indies to bat first. Bravo is Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings teammate but it doesn’t mean Dhoni knows everything about him. He opened the innings with another Dwayne; Smith, who is also Dhoni’s CSK teammate. The role reversals in less than a weeks’ time was nicely adapted by Bravo and Smith as they put on 34 for the first wicket in the 8th over, which was not a bad start at all. Of the first ball of the 8th over from Mohammed Shami, Bravo was tempted to throw his bat and the resulting thick edge flew for an easy catch for Shikhar Dhawan in the first slip. Darren bravo followed Dwayne and with Smith, he added 64 for the second wicket. Of the first ball of the 18th over, Smith lifted Ravindra Jadeja over the sightscreen for six but saw his stumps castled on the next delivery as he played across the line of a straighter ball and missed. It was time for Marlon Samuels now. Though in Darren Bravo’s company, Samuels could only add 22 for the third wicket, the assault came afterwards. In the next 23 overs, Samuels and Ramdin added 165 for the third wicket. After Ramdin’s departure, wickets kept falling but Samuels held fort and continued unabated. He ensured that West Indies crossed 300 to make it difficult for India later. In the end, Samuels remained unbeaten on 126 off 116 balls with 11 fours and 4 sixes. West Indies finished on 321/6.

Though India has made 300+ in the second innings a few times, chasing 322 in ODIs is not easy. They began well as Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan added 49 for the first wicket in the ninth over. India’s troubles began after Rahane got run out in utter confusion. Rahane took off for a single off Ravi Rampaul and wanted another run. Without looking at his partner closely, he ran and joined Dhawan at the keeper’s end. It was a needless sacrifice for India as Rahane decided to walk off to leave Dhawan intact. The unfortunate incident slowed down the normally ebullient Dhawan and when he finally got out as the sixth wicket, he had already consumed 92 balls for his 68 runs. For India, the match became a lost cause when four star batsmen went back to the pavilion without making their marks. Virat Kohli continued with his dismal show from the tour to England; Raina fell for a duck, Rayudu couldn’t last long and Dhoni got out for 8. When Dhawan and Bhuvi Kumar fell as sixth and seventh wickets with India way off the target, the only task remaining for India was reducing the margin of defeat. Jadeja and Shami played their parts and tried their best to contain the deficit but in the end. Their last-wicket stand of 42 meant that India diluted the humiliation somewhat. India were bundled out in the 41st over for 197 runs and West Indies began their major assignment with a victory by 124 runs.

Samuels was solid despite playing his first ODI in several months. He led the West Indies’ charge with his sixth ODI century and the second against India. He had very good support from Denesh Ramdin, who scored 61. The two West Indians added valuable runs in good time to make the target too stiff for India. Later, the bowlers didn’t allow India’s batsmen settle down and beat the home side in every department of the game.