Is it better to have come close and not crossed the finish line; or to have not come close at all? West Indies must have briefly brooded over similar thoughts after they came within a run of toppling India. Much like the wire artist from the film The Walk, who considered the final few paces of his stunt the hardest, West Indies were at their most vulnerable when they were on the brink of doing what they have done only twice before: chase down a total over 300.
West Indies had most things in their favour. A wet ball that nullified the spin threat. Two pacers who are not regulars in the ODI side. And a centurion in Shai Hope batting through the innings. What they perhaps lacked was a certain amount of know-how in finishing the job, something their opposition could be a case study for, as they showed in the first ODI.
A source of solace could be that they have succeeded in their main aim of putting up scores of over 300. They had managed to do so only four times since the 2015 World Cup, the least among the top nine nations.
But with opportunity slipping out of their grasp and India recalling their frontline pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the last three ODIs, even that task may only get tougher. Both of them have considerably better records against left-handers than Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. That fact could serve India well against an intrepid Shimron Hetmyer, who has so far plundered 200 runs in the series, besides denting the confidence of the Indian spinners by consistently clobbering them into the stands. Furthermore, Bhuvneshwar will return to a venue where he was Man of The Match against New Zealand almost exactly a year ago. India could finally field a near full-strength side in the third ODI, with only Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav missing.
West Indies TLLWL
In the spotlight
After inexplicably benching Kuldeep Yadav in the first ODI, India corrected the error by including him in Vizag. While the combination of dew, Hope and Hetmyer rendered most of India's attack powerless, Kuldeep managed to have an impact through the middle stages in customary fashion. The fact that all three of his victims failed to pick the googly should excite him.
With over 900 runs in the country, West Indies' most experienced batsman Marlon Samuels was expected to do more. In both matches, Samuels came in dressed as the protagonist and the stage set, only to be overshadowed by two youngsters. While lack of runs is surely a problem, the larger issue might be whether he is picking India's wristspinners who are bound to bowl the bulk of the middle overs. In Guwahati, Yuzvendra Chahal pinned him lbw with the slider as he prodded forward in a pre-DRS manner, with his bat next to his pad, rather than in front of it. And in Vizag, after hitting three fours off overpitched balls, Samuels made the mistake of playing back to Kuldeep, hoping to read the turn off the pitch, and was bowled by the googly.
With Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah back, India will be tempted to draft both of them in the side straightaway, given how ineffective other pacers have been thus far. That could mean Umesh Yadav missing out.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Rishabh Pant, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
The visitors may again be slightly torn between picking the extra pace of Oshane Thomas or the variations of Obed McCoy, who had replaced him in the last ODI.
West Indies (possible): 1 Chandrapaul Hemraj, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmeyer, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Ashley Nurse 9 Oshane Thomas/Obed McCoy, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Kemar Roach
Pitch and conditions
The last time Pune hosted an international, curator Pandurang Salgaoncar was dismissed by the BCCI before the first ball was bowled after being caught on camera giving information to two undercover reporters who were posing as bookies. What he had predicted to be 337-338 run pitch, turned out to be a sluggish surface where New Zealand, who batted first struggled, but India found it easier under lights.
Stats and trivia
Through the crucial middle stages, between overs 11 and 40, West Indies have only picked up two wickets in the series.
Shikhar Dhawan is 144 runs away from becoming the fastest Indian to 5000 ODI runs
Dhawan and Rohit Sharma require only 14 more runs go past Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and become India's second-most successful opening pair in ODIs
"I have missed being part of the dressing room. Not sure if the boys have missed me. And looking back, now in Pune [with all the sights], maybe I should have held back and got banned here,"
West Indies coach Stuart Law on his ban.