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Analysis

Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav strike old form, Prasidh Krishna shows future promise

Also pieces of India's middle-order puzzle start to come together in the ODI clean sweep against West Indies

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
11-Feb-2022
Rohit Sharma's India wrapped up a 3-0 ODI whitewash of West Indies. As such, the series proved to be one-sided, with the visitors failing to bat out 50 overs even once. India used the series to try out a few options and came back with a better idea of what their larger squad could look like as they build slowly towards the 2023 World Cup.
The Kohli presence
With the bat, Virat Kohli had a forgettable series. He only managed scores of 8, 18 and 0. Two of those three dismissals were nicks behind: one off the outside edge, another being a strangle down leg. In the series opener, he came out swinging, hitting two boundaries in three balls before perishing to a miscued pull off the fourth. And so, century No. 71 will have to wait. He has now gone 68 innings without a hundred. Incidentally, his previous century - against Bangladesh in India's pink-ball Test debut in November 2019 - came at the venue where India flies to for the T20Is.
"Virat Kohli needs confidence? What are you saying, yaar," Rohit laughed when asked if the former captain's form was a matter of worry. "Not hitting hundreds is different but in South Africa, he just made two fifties in three matches. I don't see anything wrong with his game. The team management is not at all worried."
On the field, Kohli the non-captain was a lively presence without the yelps into the mic or giving send-offs to the batter. There were no roars of "come on" belted out either. Perhaps, the one-sided nature of the series may have something to do with it, but the Kohli who took the field against West Indies seemed jovial. He was chuckling away in the infield, doing jigs to celebrate wickets, and being a smiling presence in general on the field. There was an occasion in the first ODI where he stepped in to help Rohit Sharma place fields as he brought on Yuzvendra Chahal. Then, he ran up to the legspinner to quietly slip in a word as Kieron Pollard walked in, and celebrated wildly the West Indies' captain's first-ball duck after he missed the googly.
Chahal and Kuldeep shine
Kuldeep Yadav cut a forlorn figure most times when the cameras panned to him in the Kolkata Knight Riders dugout last year. In 2020, he'd played all of five games for them. In 2021, he didn't play a single game in the first half of the IPL and got injured during the second. With the team management preferring Varun Chakravarthy's mystery, Kuldeep, once a certainty in India's XI, seemed low on confidence and form.
A shoulder surgery and three months of rehabilitation later, he made a comeback and bowled well in his only outing in the series. Kuldeep started with a flatter trajectory, but the confidence of plenty of runs to defend and an opposition batting unit that was in self-destruct mode allowed him to flight the ball. He got tonked the few times he gave it a tad too much flight, but spun out two wickets, including that of West Indies stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran, who was out driving. A few overs earlier, he had bamboozled Fabian Allen with his mastery, by teasing him with his loop and then deceiving him in the air to have him caught behind.
"We wanted to rest Chahal to see what Kuldeep has to offer [in the third game] and I thought he bowled brilliantly," Rohit said. "I can see glimpses of the old Kuldeep. He was flighting the ball, bowling those googlies and getting the batters to nick to the slips and that is what he has done in the past. It was good to see him bowl that way.
"He's playing an ODI after a long time. He got hit for a few runs but honestly that didn't matter. I told him not to worry about that stuff, I told him 'you need to get your rhythm back and we're here to support you'."
Before Kuldeep came in, Chahal kept his end of the bargain by being a wicket-taker whenever the ball was thrown to him. He was named Man of the Match in the first ODI for his four-for. In the second, he bowled tidily to pick up one wicket. The faster-through-the-air Ravi Bishnoi will have to wait for an ODI debut.
Iyer, Suryakumar grab opportunities
Having brushed aside comparisons with Michael Bevan, he did exactly what Michael Bevan might have done for Australia in his pomp: revive a floundering innings with a sturdy knock. Suryakumar Yadav top scored with 64 in the second ODI. He looked good for a lot more but fell against the run of play.
In the final ODI, Shreyas Iyer, who at this time last year was stretchered off clutching his shoulder against England, combined to have crucial partnerships with Rishabh Pant to stem the damage after a top-order collapse. He top scored with 80 to set the tone for India's innings, thereby serving a reminder of his middle-order chops.
In his two outings of the series, Deepak Hooda showed he was no pushover. His two knocks brought him scores of 26* and 29. In the first, he came in with India having lost four quick wickets in a low-pressure chase. In the second, he tried to hold the lower order together before perishing in the final overs. He also nipped out the wicket of Shamrah Brooks - West Indies' top scorer in that second game.
Another key piece in the middle-order puzzle, Washington Sundar bowled with tact and made useful contributions with the bat.
Prasidh Krishna's giant strides
With Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah resting, Prasidh Krishna put on a stellar show right through the series. He nipped the ball both ways, beat the inside and outside edges with zip and bounce, and kept a lid on the runs early on to build enough pressure around batters before getting them. In the second ODI, he returned career-best figures.
Deepak Chahar, brought in for the third ODI, also did his reputation no harm. Having fallen agonisingly short of taking India home with the bat in the final ODI against South Africa in Cape Town, he ensured a cameo towards the death in the final ODI against West Indies got India to a competitive total. With the ball, he married swing with accuracy to nip out two top-order wickets in the same game.
"We were looking for someone like him to come out and bowl those overs in the middle and get us those breakthroughs," Rohit said of Prasidh's impact. "We saw that clearly, the way he bowled in the last two games, with a lot of pace, we could see he got something out of the pitch as well. He's definitely a prospect for the future. There's no doubt about that."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo