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Match Analysis

India's top three showing unprecedented superiority

Their dominance is comparable on the surface to Ricky Ponting's Australian team that demolished sides with a formidable top three during the period of their consecutive World Cup triumphs

There is awe and wonder every time Virat Kohli makes a century in a chase, simply because of how often he does it and often because of how simply he does it. He has 20 centuries now in 75 successful chases, another metric where he is comprehensively beating Sachin Tendulkar (14 in 124 innings) whose record of being the fastest to 10,000 ODI runs won't stand for much longer either.
Batting immediately above him is Rohit Sharma, who doesn't break records as regularly as Kohli, but manages some astonishing feats when he does. On Sunday, he became the man with most 150-plus scores in ODIs with his sixth such score. Again, it was a Tendulkar record that was broken.
Without putting too fine a point on it, these two are the best ODI batsmen in the world at the moment, and their being in the same team and being able to bring out the best in each other is the stuff of fantasies.
"Three-twenty-plus totals are always tricky. But we knew it's all about one partnership. And life isn't difficult when Rohit is at the other end," Kohli said at the presentation. "[It] happens very rarely that Rohit plays second fiddle. Among the top three, I've preferred the anchor role, but today I felt good and I communicated with Rohit that he should play the anchor role. And when I got out, he took over and [Ambati] Rayudu played the anchor. I've always enjoyed batting with him. It's our fifth double-hundred partnership."
It was a bold move to switch roles like that after losing an early wicket. Rohit, even when he isn't playing what Kohli called second fiddle, is known for taking his time to settle in. The early loss of Shikhar Dhawan could have resulted in a steep rise of the asking rate if Kohli had gone about it in his usual measured way too. But there was an opportunity to go after the debutant fast bowler, Oshane Thomas, whom West Indies were keen on using as a surprise element in their plan to prioritise wickets.
"Got to get them out, that's the only way to stem the flow of runs," West Indies captain Jason Holder said after the match. "They're two quality players, world-class players. And the only way to stop them from scoring is by getting them out. Up front we were obviously looking for wickets because we felt that that was the only way to win the game. I told the boys there was no point looking to contain."
This played into their hands and after a couple of balls of hopping and ducking, Kohli decided to look for boundaries against Thomas' mid-140kph pace. Even during that sequence, the Indian strategy was teetering on bold, if not overzealous, considering the nervy middle order that could be exposed. Kohli had a couple of edges and close calls during this time and it took him almost three overs before he could dominate Thomas and get him out of the attack with severe damage. Once that barrier was passed - with Kohli past 50 in no time - West Indies stood no chance against the pair, who played it turn by turn to beat them into pulp with a 246-run stand that came at 7.45.
This sort of superiority together, with regular contributions from Dhawan, has been the theme of India's recent ODI history, to the extent that it is comparable on the surface to Ricky Ponting's Australian team that demolished sides with a formidable top three during the period of their consecutive World Cup triumphs.
Of course, aside from the Ponting triumvirate's long rule itself, there are other differentiators: for one, none of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Ponting was particularly inclined to playing anchor roles. For another, while they did decimate oppositions together, they barely came close to the domination that India's present top three exhibits: spread across the three possible permutations, the Rohit-Dhawan-Kohli trio has 18 150-plus stands in ODIs, whereas the Hayden-Gilchrist-Ponting trio managed seven between them.
These are prolific numbers, and they are pretty runs. No team can complain when they chase 323 with nearly eight overs to spare and eight wickets in hand. But India's statistics from the last two major tournaments - the 2015 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy - show a pattern. In both of them, the top three run-scorers were Rohit, Dhawan, and Kohli, and after prolific near-perfect unbeaten runs into the final stages, India fell apart when all three of them were dismissed in a short space of time.
It's a conundrum that is proving tough to fix for India. You can't coach a middle order into competence without game time. Promoting players from the middle order is counterproductive if you're training for specialist roles, and you can't put up a second string top order against stronger opposition.
Kohli said before the start of the series that India were looking to sort out the issue by infusing experience into the middle order - hence, Rayudu - and hoping that does the trick if the top order fails. Barring a dramatic improvement from West Indies' bowling, that fail-test might be a while coming. It is a cruel irony for long-term Indian fans - who finally have more than one Tendulkar-like player and a win-loss ratio comparable to the Australian teams of the 2000s - that they still have to invest a fair amount of their times into faith and prayers.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo