India are strong favourites against West Indies. © Getty Images

India have so far run away with three victories on the T20I-leg of their tour of the West Indies. They have not had to break a sweat. They haven’t had to fight for a win. And worst of all, they haven’t had the chance to have a good, hard look at their batting unit.

In the first two matches, India’s openers ran away with the games. West Indies didn’t bowl particularly well— and that’s putting it nicely— but Shafali Verma made sure they paid for their indiscipline. Smriti Mandhana, also scoring at a rapid rate, played her role to perfection— feeding her younger partner the strike when she was on a role, and stepping up in the middle phase.

While Jemimah Rodrigues finally got some time in the middle in the third T20I, she was never under any real pressure. Chasing a meagre target of 60— albeit on a slow pitch— all the teenager had to do was turn over the strike and capitalise on the inevitable loose delivery West Indies bowled at her. She was nowhere near her fluent best— having been dropped twice in her 51-ball knock— but managed to guts it out to make sure she got India over the line.

Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy played the ‘finishing’ role to perfection in the first T20I, but these five aside, the rest of the line-up has been untested.

With only a little over three months to go for the Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia, India will go into what looks like their final two matches before they finalise their squad, hoping to iron out whatever chinks they have in their armour. Whether that means providing opportunities to their fringe players is left to be seen. 

Arundhati Reddy, Mansi Joshi and Harleen Deol are all yet to play a game in the series. While Reddy and Joshi made appearances in the series against South Africa, Deol last turned out for India in her first series against England in March. She is also the only reserve batter in the team, which means India will do well to make sure she is prepared to be thrown into the deep end if and when the time comes.

It is hard to think of India making too many changes to their squad going in to the mega-event in Australia, which means they should ideally make sure the entire unit gets some game time. Against an under-strength West Indies, unless something goes drastically wrong, it doesn’t really look like India will be beaten. However, as Harmanpreet Kaur has often said, it is important her team learns to dominate consistently and make winning a habit. Complacency— against anyone— will do them no good. A win in the fourth T20I of the series at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on Sunday (November 17) is what the Indian captain will expect her team to deliver.

For West Indies, the script hasn’t changed following the first T20I. With their captain ruled out of the series, it gave the younger players an opportunity to step up and put in impressive performances. The likes of Hayley Matthews, Anisa Mohammed, Shemaine Campbelle and Natasha McLean have failed to pull their weight, while Selman— only recently having recovered from an injury— looks far from her best.

Gus Logie and co., however, will continue to hope the hosts are able to lift their game and show some improvement. If the previous game is anything to go by, West Indies have finally turned it on with the ball, with Matthews leading the way. Now for her to lift her game with the bat as well. Her team, after all, depends on it.

Squads:

West Indies: Anisa Mohammed (c), Aaliyah Alleyne, Afy Fletcher, Shakera Selman, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Shabika Gajnabi, Shemaine Campbelle (vc), Sheneta Grimmond, Cherry-Ann Fraser.

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Anuja Patil, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy.

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