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India, West Indies top orders in focus in Lucknow's international return

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Agarkar: India could bring in Chahal for Umesh (2:47)

Ajit Agarkar and Phil Simmons discuss the possible XIs for the first international match to be played at a new stadium in Lucknow (2:47)

Big Picture

The last time Lucknow hosted men's international cricket, Mohammad Azharuddin and Arjuna Ranatunga were captaining India and Sri Lanka respectively, in a Test match in 1994 at the KD Singh Stadium. Fast-forward to 2018: Azharuddin's son Asaduddin is looking to break into the Ranji Trophy and Arjuna's son Dhyan has now settled down in California, having briefly played for Tamil Union in youth tournaments in Sri Lanka.

The Ekana international stadium, one of the biggest grounds in India, gears up to host its first international in Lucknow's return. West Indies need to regroup and win here if they are to force the series into a decider in Chennai. While their bowlers, chiefly 21-year-old tearaway Oshane Thomas, forced India to dig deep into their reserves, their batting line-up unravelled once again in Kolkata. What was Denesh Ramdin doing at the top of the order alongside Shai Hope, who wasn't in the T20I squad in the first place?

Okay, he did open in the CPL 2018 final, but he struggled to 24 off 30 balls in that game. All told, in T20s this year, Ramdin has managed 431 runs in 23 innings at an underwhelming strike rate of 116.48. West Indies don't have any specialist openers in their T20I roster, but they could consider bringing in Nicholas Pooran, who has opened in the CPL as well as the BPL. Last month, he was in excellent form for Trinidad & Tobago in the domestic 50-over tournament, hitting three successive fifties, although in the middle order.

If West Indies' patchwork top order can lay a decent platform, they have the depth in the middle and lower order to launch from there. India, too, have some top-order concerns: Shikhar Dhawan has scored only 130 runs in seven innings in limited-overs cricket since his hundred against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. And while Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya ensured India scraped home on Sunday, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Manish Pandey are far from establishing themselves in the middle order.

Form guide

India WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LLLWW

In the spotlight

In his first match of the limited-overs series against West Indies, KL Rahul began with a delightful back-foot punch through extra-cover and promised much, only to pull Carlos Brathwaite straight into the lap of deep square leg for 16 off 22 balls. With India's middle order in constant flux, Rahul needs substance to match his style - and needs it right now - to earn a longer run.

In the CPL earlier this year, Darren Bravo had transformed himself into an incredible white-ball hitter for Trinbago Knight Riders, carting Kieron Pollard for five sixes in a 32-run over - the most expensive in the CPL. Similar six-hitting in India could not only help West Indies draw level but also catch the attention of IPL scouts.

Team news

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had missed the first T20I because of a "gastric complaint" is likely to return in place of Umesh Yadav. India might also swap Kuldeep Yadav for Yuzvendra Chahal or Washington Sundar.

India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Rishabh Pant, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal/Washington Sundar, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Umesh Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Khaleel Ahmed

West Indies might replace Ramdin with Pooran, who can also keep wicket.

West Indies (possible): 1 Shai Hope, 2 Denesh Ramdin/Nicholas Pooran (wk), 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Keemo Paul, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Khary Pierre, 11 Oshane Thomas

Pitch and conditions

The pitch at the Ekana stadium is an unknown quantity, and dew could prompt the captain winning the toss to chase.

Stats and trivia

  • Thomas has bowled Dhawan three times in three innings on this tour.

  • Pant is the fifth-highest scorer in T20s in 2018, with 1126 runs in 27 innings at a strike rate of 176.21.