India’s World Cup campaign still remains untarnished. Having beaten Pakistan, South Africa and the UAE with a certain ease, India were looking unstoppable. They hadn’t had a real challenge and they were heading down the mountain at full speed straight off a cliff. Confidence is one thing but without a challenge in the group stages, India would have been very unprepared to face a side like New Zealand when crunch time came, particularly the batsmen. During India’s fourth game though, the West Indies provided the team with possibly enough traction for them to find a safer route down the mountain.
On Friday the 6th of March, India were playing the West Indies in Perth. It was their second game at the WACA and they would have been feeling fairly comfortable with the ground. The West Indies had been having an rough World Cup from even before the tournament started. With two of their key one day players being stopped from playing by the WI Board and Sunil Narine being stopped by the ICC, they were already at a disadvantage. The team also had to face the challenge of being under new captaincy with a very young Jason Holder being given the reins only a series before the World Cup began.
West Indies had also been having a very patchy run through the tournament in the lead-up to the India game. Their 304 had been chased down by Ireland, then they went on to beat Pakistan and Zimbabwe by fairly large margins before losing by a massive 257 runs to South Africa. Their sketchy form meant that there could be no expectations for the game.
Holder won the toss and elected to bat first. This was their final chance to keep themselves in the running to qualify for the quarter finals without banking on net run rate. From the start, the West Indies looked uneasy. It took both openers a while to get moving. Chris Gayle did not score in the first five overs of the game and they had to sweat for every run. Dwayne Smith was removed early by Mohammed Shami and was followed very closely by Marlon Samuels who was run out when Gayle refused what looked like an easy single. West Indies were struggling to score as the Indian seamers bowled great lines and lengths. Though Gayle was dropped three times, the bowlers really exploited the bounce and pace of the WACA ground and finally removed him and Denesh Ramdin in the next ball. The West Indies stuttered to 38-4 from 10 overs and the game was looking as easy for India as the UAE game. Jonathan Carter stuck around and looked like he was playing himself in. Once again though, India struck at the right moment. With Darren Sammy the old captain and Jason Holder the new captain at the crease, there was still a chance for West Indies to pull it out of the bag. However Sammy played a very un-captain like innings. He tried too hard to score and swung at one too many balls before he was removed by Shami. At 124-8, the Indian fans were cheering every time Holder hit a boundary. The fans that had followed India around had not seen a really competitive match and this was looking as unchallenging as the rest. The captain was once again was the man to save the day for for West Indies. He gave the West Indies bowlers a chance as he top scored with 57 runs hitting four fours and three sixes.
Chasing 183 seemed like an easy enough total for India to reach but the West Indies played extremely well and put some real pressure on Dhoni’s men. None of the Indian batsmen looked in a rush to chase down the total but the West Indies bowlers appeared to be getting a lot out of the ground as both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were removed edging the ball. Virat Kohli looked like he was in for the long haul as he hit some beautiful shots and settled in. However in the 15th over, Kohli skied one straight into the hands of Samuels. Just as India had done, the West Indies continued to pick off wickets with Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina also edging the ball back to Ramdin. At 107-5 it was still India’s game to lose. Their middle order had not faced a challenge in the tournament so far so this was the perfect time for them to settle in without the weight of a required rate on their shoulders. West Indies however had not given up yet, they removed Ravindra Jadeja who looked as though he was itching to finish the game. This brought Ravi Ashwin to the crease. One more wicket and the West Indies would have been into the tail end of India. A tail end that could not bat like Australia’s. However MS Dhoni played a wonderfully calm innings and, with the assistance of a cool headed Ashwin they pulled India over the line.
The West Indies bowlers bowled very well, they were aggressive and looked to take wickets. Having just faced a pummelling from AB de Villiers, it was great to see them bounce back the way they did and really challenge the Indian team.