Shimron Hetmyer scored only his fifth century against India in a clinical run-chase in the first ODI but at no stage, it appeared as if he wasn't used to reaching such milestones. Shai Hope hung around till the very end, played the textbook anchor role and propelled his side over the line with a terrific century.
The record 218 runs partnership might not have escalated had India fielded a well-rounded bowling attack as the spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav leaked many runs and the debutant Shivam Dube lacked penetration and couldn't strut his stuff on the big stage. We can expect a pacer coming in the mix for the second ODI that has become a must-win game for the hosts to stay alive in the series.
Swing bowler Shardul Thakur may get an opportunity to bolster the pace attack while Yuzvendra Chahal could join hands with his spin companion Kuldeep Yadav to put pressure from both ends—an aspect that was lacking in the first ODI.
West Indies have a meagre 19% winning percentage against India at their home soil but they have got a magnificent opportunity to shun the mediocre ways and start a new epoch.
More often than not, India's heavy top order gives them solid starts and deny middle order from spending too much time in the middle but their blueprint for success over past few years didn't work the other day as the rebuilding work from Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant couldn't get them past 300 as they scraped their way to a somewhat respectable total of 287.
Indian batsmen' woes were compounded by a stellar bowling performance from Sheldon Cottrell and Alzarri Joseph, who kept a check on the scoring rate with smart bowling as they used variations effectively and managed to get timely scalps. They would be buoyed with their work but the touring party should expect India to come harder as they would be wide awake after an untypical disconcerted effort in the series opener.
One bright spot for India was Pant getting some runs under his belt in a pressure situation and not losing the plot with a reckless hoick -early in his innings - and India would dearly like him to convert the fifties into hundreds as he has got MS Dhoni shoes to fill and the expectations have naturally been high from the keepers who have come in place of India's World Cup-winning skipper.
West Indies would be expecting Hetmyer to deflate the spinners and show his range of shots again in the second ODI tomorrow. He scored effortlessly against the spinners in particular as Virat Kohli ran out of options and had to turn to his spin bowling options to deliver the bulk of the overs. With less than 50 required off last 10 overs, one would have thought the 'old' West Indian ways might creep in and a collapse wasn't out of the equation but Hope made sure he holds his nerve and doesn't let the grinding work go in vain.
The absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah was felt in the middle overs when Kohli needed his teammates to break the threatening partnership but nobody could stop the carnage from the Hope-Hetmyer pair, who complemented each other superbly as the former kept the scoreboard ticking while the latter took calculated risks against the rudderless bowling attack. Deepak Chahar dibbly dobbly pace, in particular, served as bread and butter for visitors.
Hetmyer-Hope potent combination will have to repeat their heroics because the side is in a perpetual rebuilding phase and has the tendency to lose from commanding positions but the upset against India, where they won against the odds, could be a watershed moment for the side that could lead to more consistent performances from the Carribean players who have always played with oodles of natural flair and have never been short of talent.
However, West Indian players' loyalties have been questioned and there is a notion circulating among fans that this spirited show from the West Indians is due to the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction on December 19 which has motivated Kieron Pollard-led side to play with extra vigour.
Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Virat Kohli(c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant(w), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur
Shai Hope(w), Sunil Ambris, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Roston Chase, Kieron Pollard(c), Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Hayden Walsh, Alzarri Joseph, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Brandon King, Khary Pierre, Romario Shepherd