WT20 Semis: Hosts India Take on Flamboyant West Indies
Can India pass the flamboyant West Indies test?
It will be a test of character for tournament favorites and hosts India as they face flamboyant West Indies in the second semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20 at the Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai on Thursday.
It promises to be a nerve wrecking encounter as 2012 title winners, West Indies have a 2-1 head to head lead against India in the World T20s. The hosts, however have a stronger team on paper this time, though it’s plagued with multiple performance issues.
Over Reliance on Kohli?
India’s reliance on Virat Kohli’s sublime form now faces a stern challenge as the encounter between the inaugural champions of the World Twenty20 and the Caribbean charmers will ultimately be decided by the ability of the players to handle the pressure in front of a full house audience.
Kohli has been the biggest galvanising factor in India’s progress this far. With his consistently excellent display in an otherwise misfiring top-order, he is the batsman that Windies will be wary of the most, apart from ever-reliable skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
On the other hand, as much as India would love to have Kohli continue his brilliant run, which included a master-class of 82 not out against Australia in the do-or-die game, they would also be eager to see that their under-performing opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who are averaging around 10 after four games, come good at a venue which is considered ideal for stroke-making.
It’s imperative for India’s chances against the varied attack of the Windies, in which leg-spinner Samuel Badree has emerged as the highest wicket-taker, that the top order fires in unison and does not depend only on the brilliance of Kohli to lead the way.
Also under the pump has been Suresh Raina at number four while Yuvraj Singh, who has not got big runs but has been involved in crucial stands with Kohli, has now been unfortunately been ruled out of the tournament.
Youngster Manish Pandey who was on standby will not replace Yuvraj, but not to forget that the hosts also have Ajinkya Rahane as part of their original squad.
West Indies has also been plagued by injuries and were forced to replace
batsman Andre Fletcher with Lendl Simmons.
Simmons has the experience of playing at the Wankhede with a fair amount of success too, as he was part of last year’s IPL champions Mumbai Indians’ campaign.
He was named in the original squad before picking up an injury and dropping out and now needs to adapt quickly to the challenge and the conditions.
The Caribbean batting has been led by Gayle and Fletcher and the latter’s injury-forced absence has made the side that much more vulnerable. The team will be looking towards someone like Marlon Samuels to step up his game for the occasion.
The Show So Far
Both teams go into the clash after getting beaten once each in the Super 10 stage but the crowd favourites would be wary of being upstaged by the Caribbeans, who have quite a few match-winners of their own.
India suffered a shock opening game defeat at Nagpur against New Zealand but then picked up pace to get the better of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia to be one victory away from entering their third summit clash in six editions.
Windies, powered by Gayle force, ensured their entry into the last four with creditable victories over England, South Africa and Sri Lanka before coming a cropper against minnows Afghanistan in their previous game.
Hands on the Ball
One of the key battles to watch out for will be Ravichandran Ashwin against the left-handed Gayle who lit up this venue with 11 towering sixes in the game against England in which the Windies chased a 180-plus total successfully by riding on the Jamaican’s swashbuckling 100 not out.
Ashwin has had a fair measure of success too, claiming Gayle four times out of nine in T20 Internationals, but the world stage is a different proposition altogether.
Compared to their batting, India has a settled bowling combination at its command with senior pro Ashish Nehra leading the seam attack. Ravindra Jadeja, has been another important cog in the Indian success wheel and the hosts would be hoping it continues to be the case.
For the Indies, Badree, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell have been the more successful ones in terms of wickets taken.
The pitch has produced three high-scoring games so far with South Africa, already eliminated, notching up back to back 200-plus totals.
But indications are that the track for tomorrow’s high-pressure game would not be as good for batting as the previous ones.
It’s expected to be a tad slow, which should help India more than the Windies.
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