After the one-sided affair of the opening match of the Celkon Mobile Cup, a close contest was necessary to infuse life into the tournament, and that is exactly what transpired during the second match, between India, the reigning World champions, and West Indies, the home side, on Sunday (June 30). (Match report)
It was a match with more than a few unexpected turns, not least injuries to Dwayne Bravo (available to play in Trinidad) and Ravi Rampaul (out for three weeks) that kept them away from playing, and to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain who will be evaluated after an MRI on Monday. (The match as it happened)
Both sides were led on the field by players who weren't really expecting it, but put on a very creditable show and give their sides great chances at victory. Virat Kohli's handling of his bowlers, initially thinking the match wouldn't go past 45 overs but then recalibrating to bring on Suresh Raina towards the end, was impressive even though he couldn't pull off victory. ('Under pressure, we missed Dhoni's calmness')
Kohli admitted that even though he has captained sides in other formats, this was all new to him, coming at such short notice as it did. "I have captained in the IPL but that's a Twenty 20 game," he said. "This was totally unexpected. It was more thinking on the feet. It was a good experience for me. I had to keep attacking fields throughout the game because we needed wickets." (Highlights: Rohit Sharma's feat not enough as India lose)
Kohli explained his logic behind bringing Raina on. "(Sunil) Narine was batting and I thought Raina is good to left-handers and when he bowls around the wicket, he sort of skids it on. I thought he might hit the pad or force them on to the front foot." He also had all the fielders inside the 30-yard circle for Narine, which eventually pressured him to play a risky stroke and get caught at mid on. (Match in pics)
Kohli wasn't too disheartened by the defeat, choosing instead to look at the positives to come of out it, especially the bowling unit pulling the game back and putting themselves in a position where just one wicket stood between India and victory. "You can't be too disappointed with these kinds of games," said Kohli. "We won seven in a row in England and in cricket, you can't win everything. The way the guys fought was very pleasing to see. Everyone was hungry to win."
Johnson Charles, the man of the match who counterattacked even as India took three early wickets, was a completely different batsman from the one that played in the previous match against Sri Lanka. "The last game was harder because my hand-eye coordination wasn't there. This game, I came out with a bit more intent and knew exactly where my scoring areas were and did my thing," he said. He added that the pitch aided strokeplay as the ball came on nicely in the afternoon.
Kohli was impressed by and happy for Charles. "The way Johnson Charles batted really impressed me," he said. "He is someone who's done well for (West Indies). It's a good thing for them. It's good to see a young player from West Indies coming through and play the match-winning knock. We were putting pressure on him and he really stood up."
With the finish line so close, Charles gifted his wicket away, thereby missing out on a certain third century in One-Day Internationals. "When you get out on 97, it's always a disappointing feeling but I must say well played to (Kemar) Roach and (Tino) Best for getting us across the line. When we got across the line, it was a huge pressure off my shoulders."
Kieron Pollard, who stood in for West Indies in Bravo's absence, had a much easier job than Kohli, feeling the pressure only as West Indies lost a few wickets as they closed in on the target. "It wasn't much pressure (leading Wet Indies for the first time), but there was pressure at the end of the game. At the start, there wasn't any pressure. We have experienced guys in the team who have captained West Indies before."
Charles as well as Darren Sammy attacked the Indian bowlers even as West Indies found themselves in a precarious position, and Pollard defended that approach by saying it is their brand of cricket. "We are West Indian cricketers. This is how we play the game. We attack. If we get in to a shell and get out, people ask, 'Why we are not playing our natural game?' At the end of the day, you just have to back yourself, back the players and that's how we play our cricket. That's our brand of cricket."
Ottis Gibson, the coach, had said that he wanted his wards to put together two good games. West Indies did almost everything right for the second time in three days but ended up cutting it too close. However, Pollard wasn't going to let that take the sheen off this win against India. "We are going to feel very proud. At the end of the day, we won the match. We have done some good things. We have to sit down and think about things we haven't done well. You have to be happy for victories, because victories do not come easy."