Five bright spots for India from a low-key West Indies tour

Debutants Jaiswal, Tilak Verma and Mukesh Kumar make their mark even as Hardik Pandya’s men end with a T20 series defeat

Tilak Varma (left) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (photo: @yashasvijaiswal28 and @tilakvarma9/Instagram)
Tilak Varma (left) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (photo: @yashasvijaiswal28 and @tilakvarma9/Instagram)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A low key Indian tour of the West Indies, shoehorned ahead of the Asia Cup and the all-important ICC World Cup in a few months, finally ended on a bit of an embarrassing note on Sunday with a 3-2 defeat in the T20 series. It’s quite likely that the fans will try to create a few fall guys—namely white ball captain Hardik Pandya and head coach Rahul Dravid—but they would do well to remember that the Caribbeans are a different kettle of fish in this format.  

The touring Indians had predictably won the two-Test series 1-0, were up against an improved West Indies to win the ODI series 2-1 but ended with a defeat in the T20Is. It would be interesting to find out the TRP ratings, what with the quality of cricket often ordinary and broadcasting on Doordarshan differing like chalk-and-cheese from the quality that one is used to these days.

However, there were some positive takeaways from all three series—despite keeping aside the centuries of senior pros Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma or the rich hauls of Ravi Ashwin or Mohammed Siraj in Tests. A look at five of them:

 Jaiswal: Fitting in no time

Yashasvi Jaiswal, who broke through in international ranks on the back of a sensational IPL 2023 season and a rich vein of form in domestic cricket, fitted in seamlessly with the demands of the big league. If his century on Test debut, a marathon effort of 171 off 350 deliveries on a low, slow Dominica wicket showed he was ready for the grind, the left-hander scored a dazzling half-century in the fourth T20I.

The debutant sat out the ODI series as the Indian team management was trying their hands at some experiments, but don’t be surprised if you see him in the World Cup roster.

Ishan Kishan: Ready for WC

The opening partner for captain Rohit Sharma for the 50-overs World Cup may look like a toss-up between Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan, but the wicketkeeper-batter showed he can being the X-factor in the line-up. A double centurion against Sri Lanka earlier this year in this format, Kishan was consistency personified as he joined an elite club of Indian batters scored three back-to-back fifties in a three-match bilateral ODI series.   

Ishan became the sixth Indian to score half-centuries in all three matches of a bi-lateral ODI series—the others being Krishnamachari Srikanth, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, MS Dhoni and Shreyas Iyer who have achieved this feat before.

Tilak Varma: Remember the name   

It’s not easy to come in at number three for India in T20Is, but the 20-year-old Tilak Varma showed he has the wherewithal to do so. After proving to be a vital cog in the wheel for Mumbai Indians in the last two seasons of IPL, he was fast-tracked in the Indian colours and Tilak stood out in a series—which India eventually lost with an aggregate of 173 runs—from his five innings at an average of 57.66.

‘’Tilak Varma played with a lot of intent and fielded brilliantly and also showed that he can bowl a bit,’’ remarked Dravid after the final T20 on Sunday. Remember to pencil his name when you draw up list of probables for next T20 World Cup in the US.

Kuldeep Yadav: the surprise package

Kuldeep Yadav, in and out of the Indian team over the last two to three seasons, showed he has got back his mojo to be back in reckoning for the ICC World Cup to be played on Indian soil. The Chinaman bowler ripped through the West Indies top order to end with a haul of four for six in the first of the three One day Internationals, which India went onto win comfortably.

The confidence level is back again as Kuldeep carried on the good work in both the white ball series—picking up seven wickets in the ODIs and six from four T20Is. During the third T20 in Guyana, he also kept his date with a landmark to be the fastest Indian bowler to reach 50 wickets in this format from 30 matches. Incidentally, he lowered his strike partner Yuzvendra Chahal’s effort of reaching 50 scalps from 34 games with this.

Mukesh Kumar: A workhorse

When Mukesh Kumar, the 29-year-old seamer from Bengal was named as a stand-bye for the World Test Championship in June, quite a few eyebrows were raised. Not many had done the homework to appreciate that it was a reward for his consistent performance with the red ball in domestic cricket for the fast few years—though Mukesh eventually showed he could deliver across all formats.

The man from the remote Gopalganj of Bihar went on to make his debut in all three formats on this tour and looked to be a complete back-up bowler to Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami or Siraj. His best haul was 3-30 in the first ODI while he showed good control to bowl in the death overs of the limited overs series! 

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Published: 14 Aug 2023, 3:30 PM