With West Indies' top order failing in both T20Is, it was down to captain Carlos Brathwaite to do some explaining at the post-match presentation after the 2nd match in Lucknow. He rued not having any designated opener in the side, and said that the makeshift approach taken by the management - with regards to their opening pair - has forced West Indies to always have a rocky start with the bat in the series.
In the first game in Kolkata, West Indies' opening pair of Denesh Ramdin and Shai Hope - neither batsmen are regular T20I openers - lasted all of 15 deliveries, scoring only 16 runs between them, while in Lucknow, a new opening pair of Hope and Shimron Hetmyer fared only marginally better with a combined tally of 21 runs in 22 deliveries. With Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis opting out of the series due to personal reasons, Brathwaite said that the team was simply trying to make do with the resources that are available to them.
"We didn't come to the tour with an out-and-out opener, so we are still trying to find our best opening combination," Brathwaite said. "There were a few theories in the first game and also this game, on how we wanted our batting order, for different reasons. Ultimately neither worked, because we failed to get a good start. But we're working with the players we have on tour, and it's difficult to choose the best batting pair, but we're trying. Up until a theory works out, it will look bad and give the pundits something to say."
On a disappointing bowling effort from the pacers, Brathwaite raised his own hand without hesitation after conceding 56 runs in a wicketless four-over spell. Brathwaite's spell, together with the four overs from left-arm spinner Kharry Pierre (0 for 49) allowed India to add over hundred runs in eight overs, and the West Indies captain felt that chasing a score close to 200 was always difficult.
Brathwaite, however, did heap praise on the other newcomer, left-arm spinner Fabian Allen, as he conceded only 8.25 per over despite a difficult surface on offer for the spinners. But despite the ordinary bowling performance, the West Indies captain believed that eventually, it was the batting that let the team down in spite of a better show by them against the potent left-arm wristspin of Kuldeep Yadav.
"Last game we bowled and fielded very well, but today I don't think we fielded as well as we wanted to. I myself was disappointed with my bowling effort," he said. "We let the team down with the ball, and chasing 195 was always going to be an uphill task, but there were a few positives.
"The way Fabian Allen bowled in the middle, and he kept the openers under wraps and eventually got Shikhar out. It is hard to look at the negatives sometimes, just need to take the small positives and go away with them."
"India batted well, but even at the halfway stage of their innings, we thought we were a wicket or two away to restrict them to 170-180. That being said, we didn't bat as we wanted to. Our batting continues to let us down. But again, small positives, Kuldeep went for a bit today. We didn't give a dismal performance, there were one or two positives. So while we often highlight the negatives, it's sometimes good to take away the positives. We've got a young group, so important for them to understand where they went wrong but also appreciate the things they did right. Hopefully we can come away with them and get a win in the final game."
Stuart Law, the West Indies coach, shared the same sentiment as Brathwaite at the post-match conference. "We have got some fantastic T20 players. But, now it's just about playing for pride," he said. "It's time for them to dig deep and play for pride, and give it everything in the last game. If we play anywhere near to our potential, we can beat any team on the day. We need to improve a lot to get to that stage."
"The team does have a lot of potential, and 'potential' is a horrible word because talk is cheap and actions speak louder. But it's the experienced guys who need to stick their hands up and do the bulk of the work. They're supposed to usher the youngsters in, but they're not quite doing that. It's a young team, though, and they're learning on the job. Regardless of being the current T20 champions, we don't have the same team here and learning on the job against India in India can be mighty tough."
Law also defended Kieron Pollard's inclusion in the side despite two ordinary performances so far. He made 20 in two innings so far, and his solitary over in the Kolkata T20I - that went for 12 - arguably shifted the momentum of the game back into India's hands at a time when they were reeling at 57 for four. But Law said that Pollard brings much more to the table, and not just on the cricket field.
"Pollard brings a lot, both on and off the field," Law said. "With the youngsters in the squad, it's someone like Pollard who motivates them in the dressing room.
"He's a senior member of the squad, and we all know what he's capable of when he gets going. But yeah, Pollard isn't in the side only because of what he brings inside the ground. He's one of the biggest motivators of the youngsters, and he's just a game away from reminding us why he's such a T20 force. Look, Pollard himself would not be pleased with his show on the tour so far, and he'll be itching to finish the series in a blazing manner."
For West Indies, it's all about playing for themselves now. They travel to Chennai earlier than the hosts as the India players embark on a two-day Diwali break. But with the series already decided, there's an opportunity for them to field left-handed hard-hitter Sherfane Rutherford and the left-arm quick Obed McCoy in the final T20I to see what those two bring to the table. It's been a disappointing tour thus far, and they'll like to finish on a positive note, but for now, they have a couple of days off to enjoy the festive season.