Having sleepwalked their way through the ODIs, West Indies posed a tougher challenge to India in the first T20I, even though they ended up on the losing side. Now, they are in a must-win situation to keep the series alive and build from their gains from the home series win against England.
High on explosive power, they bat deep and have enough utility cricketers whose games are tailor-made for the format. They have so far been let down by inconsistency, which they need to address quickly.
They have carefully tried to balance potential versus performance. The inclusion of Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers, both of whom offer all-round depth, are perfect examples. Not traditionally known for their T20 game, the pair has had to put in solid performances for two seasons to get here. Without Andre Russell, they have built their lower order by backing Odean Smith and Fabian Allen. It's time for them to repay the faith.
India are rediscovering a winning formula in T20Is. They are finally beginning to show signs of moving away from their safety-first approach. On Wednesday, Rohit Sharma laid down the marker with his 40 off 19 for the rest of the line-up to follow.
Things are beginning to fall into place. Suryakumar Yadav's calming presence in the middle order, Venkatesh Iyer's finishing, the emergence of Ravi Bishnoi and the return of Yuzvendra Chahal all bode well. Virat Kohli hasn't had the runs, but his presence within the group has remained unchanged. The team management isn't fretting over his lack of big runs. Friday is another opportunity for India to get it all together and seal the series.
India WWWWW (Last five completed T20Is, most recent first) West Indies LWLWL
In the spotlight
Kyle Mayers has been part of the CPL since 2013 but has managed 200 or more runs in just one CPL season, in 2020. Initially seen mostly as a long-format player, Mayers has made massive improvements to his fitness and power-hitting over the past two seasons, something Kieron Pollard touched upon prior to the series. His handy medium pace also gives the team an extra bowling option and a head start. In the first T20I, he looked in excellent nick, making 31 breezy runs before falling to a marginal lbw call. He would want to cement his spot as a T20I opener in the next two games.
Venkatesh Iyer's IPL success has been as an opener, but the team management sees him as a finisher currently, and he did his chances no harm with a quickfire and unbeaten 24 off 13 balls to see off the chase with Suryakumar. He lost his ODI place after just two outings in South Africa but has an opportunity to establish himself in the shortest format with a few handy performances like the one on Wednesday.
India will probably make one forced change if the swelling on Deepak Chahar's wrists rules him out. He got hit while fielding a Pollard pull and left the field immediately. He didn't return to complete his full quota of overs. India have a like-for-like replacement in Shardul Thakur.
West Indies vice-captain Pooran, who top-scored with 61 on Wednesday, felt the ball held on to the surface a tad longer, especially when the bowlers bowled back of a length. This made hitting through the line difficult. He also observed the ball skidded through faster in the second innings because of dew. The receding winter nip and evening chill that engulfs Kolkata will mean the dew factor will come into play again, which means the captain who wins the toss will most likely want to chase again.
Stats and trivia
Rohit Sharma has scored 30 or more in each of his last seven T20I innings. Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan is the only other batter with such a streak in men's T20Is.
In four of their last five T20Is, West Indies have a run rate of over 12 in the death overs.
"It's very hard on Shreyas Iyer to not make it to the XI, but it's what the team requires. We need that option in the middle, someone who can bowl. We were very clear with Shreyas, we told him the team wants that option [of an allrounder] going into the World Cup." Rohit Sharma gives a peek into the thought process building up to the T20 World Cup
"We were in two minds against them. Whether to attack them or keep them out of the game. We got caught there. It is a small fix. We have to be more clear in the next game to execute our plans." Nicholas Pooran on where West Indies lost the plot on Wednesday