In India, Holi and Diwali are two major festivals. While Holi is a festival of colors, Diwali is one of lights, celebrated by bursting crackers as a show of one’s joy. When India was taking on West Indies at Perth for the 28th match of the 2014 ICC Cricket World Cup, atmosphere back home was being marked by the play of colors across the country as the match schedule coincided with Holi. And by the time MS Dhoni struck the winning runs, Holi festivities got transformed into Diwali as people began bursting crackers in city streets all over India. That victory, however, didn’t come on a platter as India’s frontline batsmen made heavy weather of a small target. Earlier, West Indies elected to bat after winning the toss and ran into trouble, losing seven wickets to show just 85 on the board. Afterwards, however, dropped catches and India’s failure to capitalize on the early advantage, allowed West Indies to come back into the game. The last three wickets produced nearly 100 runs with skipper Jason Holder notching up a half century. Even so, West Indies were bowled out for 182 in the 45th over. That left India to score just 183 runs for victory. In a high scoring World Cup 2015, that was not too much to ask. Even non-ICC member countries have piled up in excess of 200 runs at times. But you can depend on India’s famed top order to make a mess of themselves in crunch moments. They lost both openers by the seventh over for 20 on the board and then Virat Kohli threw his wicket. At 107/5, West Indies sensed victory and applied pressure. Dhoni, however, kept his head down and steered India to a labored 4-wicket victory.
Jason Holder won the toss at Perth and elected to bat. He probably expected Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels to tear India’s bowling apart. But this West Indies side is one of the most inconsistent of all times. Gayle can hit on his day but by and large, he is unreliable. West Indies lost Dwayne Smith in the 5th over as the batsman poked at a ball too close to his bat on the off-side and ended up caught behind. Samuels was downright unfortunate. When Gayle hit high towards Mohit Sharma and apparently survived a chance, Samuels ran for a single even as Gayle still watched the ball and didn’t respond. Both batsmen were caught at the same end, when Sharma threw at non-striker’s end for Kohli to complete an easy run out. Three balls earlier, Gayle had survived another chance after Umesh Yadav dropped him after getting both hands to the skier. Gayle couldn’t last long regardless. He struck Yadav for 11 runs off three balls after Samuels’ departure hit another boundary in Shami’s next over and then holed out at deep square-leg for Mohit to make amends for his earlier lapse. In the next over from Yadav, Denesh Ramdin dragged an off-side delivery onto his stumps. 35/4 became 84/6 and could have been 84/7 if Jadeja had not put down an extremely easy catch offered by Sammy. At the end of 30 overs, West Indies were 105/7. At this point, Indian bowlers allowed a lot of rope and though Sammy got out at the score of 124, Jason Holder and Jerome Taylor repaired the damage with a 51-run partnership. However, once Taylor fell in the 43rd over, Holder followed him in the 45th with West Indies setting a 183-run target for India.
India’s openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan played tentatively, which was no way to chase a meager target. Dhawan had to go as he couldn’t leave the temptation of cutting an off-side ball from Taylor that was perfectly pitched. As Dhawan slashed with an angled bat, he got an edge that was easily held by Sammy in the slips. Sharma followed Dhawan as another of Taylor’s victim in the seventh over, when he tried a drive away from his body and Ramdin held him gleefully. Rahane walked in at 20/2 to join Virat Kohli. Though Kohli played some delectable flicks to midwicket he never looked in command. On the other side, Rahane took 9 balls to get off the mark. This was how India’s premier batsmen allowed West Indies bowlers to dictate term. Kohli departed when he pulled Andre Russell but the lofted shot lacked power and Samuels got under it finish an easy catch. Rahane followed Kohli shortly afterwards for 14 runs made from 34 balls. But his caught behind dismissal was funny as reviews were inclusive. Anyway, when Dhoni arrived at 78/4, India still needed 105 for victory. Dhoni and Raina took India past 100 but Raina fell as the fifth wicket, when he slashed at a short ball and top-edged to Ramdin. That brought India’s score to 107/5. After adding 27 with Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja also perished to a miscued pull. The match hung in balance at 135/6 as Dhoni and Ashwin trudged along. In a strange decision, Holder brought in Dwayne Smith and Marlon Samuels into the attack. That released the pressure on Dhoni and Ashwin and they comfortably took India over the line.
In was the fourth straight win for India but it didn’t come as expected. They are now the table toppers in their pool. With just two matches against Ireland and Zimbabwe remaining, India have started figuring out who their possible opponents would be in the quarterfinals. But the West Indies experience should serve as an eye-opener for them. They held the upper hand all through the day and lost it when most needed.