Clearly stung by their performance in Pune, India flexed their muscles in the last two matches to clinch their sixth successive ODI series at home. Determined to prove that the Pune defeat was an aberration, they swept the Windies aside in Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram, their manner and margins of victory totally comprehensive.
Rohit Sharma lit up the Brabourne Stadium with a brilliant 162, while Virat Kohli was brilliant on his way to the Man of the Series award, just rewards for becoming the first Indian to hit three straight hundreds. The think-tank will be mindful that, when the top three haven’t delivered, the middle-order hasn’t yet been able to win a game from a pressure situation all on its own. But it will also be delighted that a fair few questions that lingered before the start of the series have been answered.
One of the biggest gains has been the consistency at No. 4 of Ambati Rayudu since his return at the Asia Cup in September. The No. 4 position is a pivotal one because more often than not, he will be walking out to join a set batsman. It becomes important to rotate strike from the off so that neither you nor your partner feels the pinch. Rayudu is adept at doing that against the spinners, and at using his feet as well as the depth of the crease to the faster bowlers. His emergence as a dependable, reliable and explosive No. 4 is a massive positive. Even though he hasn’t played a lot of international cricket, he is a very experienced batsman and a huge asset to the side.
The other positive was the encouraging progress of Khaleel Ahmed. He brings a new dimension with his left-arm fast option, and has shown that he can get the ball to go both ways. He must get a long run leading in to the World Cup so that he is both confident and ready by the time the big stage beckons. India can also take heart from how seamlessly Ravindra Jadeja has slipped back into 50-over mode. He is the consummate limited-overs package, the spin-bowling all-rounder who can complement the medium-paced Hardik Pandya as and when the latter is fit and ready.
The Windies didn’t cash in on the momentum from Pune, but I expect them to come out all guns blazing in the T20s to follow. They will be fortified by the arrival of Carlos Brathwaite, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell. A young Indian side, without Virat and MS Dhoni, will have their work cut out. There will, I can guarantee, be no shortage of fireworks.