West Indies tri-series 2013 July 12, 2013

India prosper in gruelling conditions

This tri-series will fade farther and farther into the blackhole of forgotten ODI events when in fact it may just have laid some important building blocks

Tri-series, or bilateral ODI series for that matter, aren't usually remembered for long after the final ball has been bowled. Given that the latest one was greedily squeezed in at the cost of a couple of Test series, and followed immediately after the Champions Trophy, there weren't exactly too many looking forward to it. And it is unlikely too many will be remembering it for anything other than MS Dhoni providing the latest example of his superhuman capabilities with the bat. Which is a pity, really, for this series gave us so much of what has become almost alien to the ODI format these days.

There is something about the Caribbean that so often produces thrilling ODIs. You'll like them if your idea of thrill is five-set you-punch-I-counter-punch battles on the clay courts of Paris. In place of 350-plus chases, we got two proper modest-scoring ODI scraps, with West Indies and India winning by one-wicket margins as late as the 48th and the 50th overs. Instead of openers striding forward and murdering length deliveries, we had them fending for survival, taking blow after blow to their bodies. For the first time in a long while, here was a series which could be rightly be called a bowlers' one, one in which batsmen had to fight and earn their runs. Again, it was all down to the pitches, showing, by contrast, just how standardised limited-over cricket has been allowed to become over the years.

Instead of flat or "ideal one-day" pitches, Sabina Park and Queen's Park Oval produced surfaces which, although different, would have made for exciting Tests. Batting first was akin to handling the first session of a Test on a Sabina Park wicket spiced up by rain. It did ease up considerably during the chase, and while that made the toss important, you were still never in as a batsman even in the afternoon, as West Indies' collapse against India showed. Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene showed big scores were not impossible if superb batting came up against atrocious bowling, racking up a record 348 for 1 batting first against India.

Trinidad only stiffened the challenge for batsmen and also extended it throughout the game on a pitch green and brown in parts. Sri Lanka went for a Twenty20-style chase of 178 in 26 overs against India and were shot out for 96, showing just how lopsided and out-of-place the shortest version can look when the balance tilts in favour of the bowler.

The ODI version chose the final to display just how many twists and turns it can pack in a day's cricket, if the pitch is not dead. Sri Lanka suffered early jolts, rebuilt to reach a position of strength and collapsed in a heap. India kept losing wickets and scoring runs, the latter with difficulty, then had a collapse of their own before turned-down singles and near run-outs climaxed into Dhoni magic in the final over.

This tri-series was not in the FTP, and only Sri Lanka were supposed to travel to West Indies, but it may well be India who have benefited the most from it. They got their first look at the man who is widely seen as the captain-in-waiting. Virat Kohli led India on the field in all league games and came back to carry them to the final, after a heart-breaking one-wicket loss to West Indies and a thrashing from Sri Lanka in Jamaica.

He admitted to missing the calm of Dhoni in the middle, but came back the way he has built his ODI reputation - a match-winning century in a must-win game against West Indies. Four games are not much to go by, but on early evidence, Kohli, unlike Dhoni, likes to stick with his specialist bowlers as much as he can. And he is not averse to packing the infield with men in search of wickets. Though Dhoni's "calm" is other-worldly, Kohli will find his own level of calm as he goes along.

The biggest gain for India has to be that Rohit Sharma went from languid to laborious. He'd not done badly in the Champions Trophy but these conditions were alien to his free-flowing style. He scratched around, he was beaten, he was battered, but was prepared to look ugly and survive against two new balls. In a way, he was playing for his place, but that danger has hardly drawn a similar response from him in the past. He still did not convert the starts after all the labour, but in a series where others struggled to even start, there were consistent signs he is finally starting to respect his talent.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was outstanding. He took wickets regularly with the new ball and was never easy to score off, which cannot be said about the other two seamers, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. Umesh is still too erratic for limited-overs and given his tendency to break down, India need to pare down his appearances in the format to preserve him for Tests. Ishant was India's most expensive first-choice bowler in conditions that suited his natural length, although he delivered some crucial wickets.

Shikhar Dhawan came down to earth, but it was Dinesh Karthik who was sorely disappointing with a highest score of 23 in five innings, and Zimbabwe might be his final chance for a while.

However, Zimbabwe won't provide the kind of challenges the conditions and oppositions in this tri-series posed for the Champions Trophy winners. If this is what the core of India's World Cup 2015 side could be, the largely inexperienced bunch could not have asked for a more strenuous workout. Unfortunately, as the World Cup gets closer, this tri-series will fade farther and farther into the blackhole of forgotten ODI events when in fact it may just have laid some important building blocks.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    I have seen lions planning its kill in Some TV channel. They wait patiently to choose their prey. They have canny eye to choose the weakest one from the pack. When it comes to the range of lion the lion make move with high percent of success. I think Mr Dhoni has got that ability.

  • Al on July 14, 2013, 20:23 GMT

    India still needs to fix its bowling woes. Ishant Sharma and Yadav haven't done much to justify their place. They should be replaced with young guns like Mohit Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Sid Kaul, etc. Rayudu deserves a chance in the middle. We need to try out Parvez Rasool, in case Ashwin or Jadeja go through a lean patch.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    No matter how indian team has fared in CT and this tri series. I got a strong feeling that middle order still have got its flwas with karthik and raina not looking much promising. This is where team is missing yuvraj. Hes a better puller of short ball than raina and doesn't go into shell completely like kartik, when the bowling side is putting pressure. He has been a match winner for soo long and before dhoni came he was used to be the best finisher of men in blue. When paired with dhoni in middle order in 2015 wc This team will at least gain more solidity in middle order. A good team need a mix of new talent vs experience. You can't expect 3-4 unmukt chands to come and start performing withing a year and straight going into wc and deliver .

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 15:31 GMT

    DK hit two fantastic centuries in the CLT practice games where all the bowlers bowled seriously. He should get a few more chances. But Vijay can be dropped for Pujara.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    Thinking of yuvraj for 2015 is wasting a spot. He has guts , tried his best after his cancer problem. Now let him rest and not take strenuous efforts and spoil his health.Similarly do not look back to Sehwags and Gambhirs. They had their day . Now it is somebody else's time. Pujara , Rahane should be guided and used.Raina , Karthik should not take their place for granted

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni marshals his available resources well to win the game rather looking for talented/experienced resources, that is what clearly differentiates him from other captains in becoming successful captain. Hats off to Dhoni.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    RP SINGH is a good swing bowler,he would be handy to INDIA in australian conditions.......

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    2015 is far away...can we focus on the present? Things to be managed...Settled and tested batting pair to open (Huge Sehwag fan but dont see him there)...Pujara and Kohli next 2...Keep Dhoni fit and fresh for the WC...Test Irfan or get a medium pacer AR...Jaddu, if the magic remains or as the sole spinner...Yuvi will be too old...Raina too bad a batsman for short bowling...Look at the U-19 WC winners for answers...Destroy creatively everytime we feel we have a world winning team...Love DK but feel time has passed him by...Ambati has more attitude and needs to be given a proper run!!!

  • senthil on July 14, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    I like to see Zaheer Khan and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowling a spell together. What a threat that will be to the opponent team. As well as Yuvraj Singh with M.S.Dhoni at the closing stage of the match. Those two players need to come back once they are fit.

  • Anit on July 13, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    India was good in grueling conditions because of self belief and good leadership. Virat Kohli did good in MSD's absence. The role of DK and Murali Vijay needs to sorted out. DK in spite of many chances he has received, he has not delivered. He was pretty much non-contributor in CLT in England and the entire WI series. Rohit Sharma did reasonably well. He still needs to sort out his tentativeness playing outside the off stump. He also seem to have slowed in scoring rate. That is OK as long as one can get set and milk there after. However, whenever Rohit Sharma tried to pick up the pace, he loses his wicket. Vijay was not impressive in the matches he played. On the bowling front, Umesh Yadav needs to develop skills to fox batsmen and be more accurate. He doesn't use crease well, doesn't use yorkers or bouncer effectively and seems to have lost some pace. Earlier, he used to bowl consistently over 140k. Now he is bowling good 5-10 k lower. Ishant is slowly and painfully improving.