West Indies desperate to wake up from nightmare of first T20I

West Indies will need to forget the first match in order to challenge India in the second. © Getty Images

Injury is hounding the West Indies, it seems. A couple of months ago, when Australia toured the islands for a six-match limited overs series, the hosts were without Deandra Dottin, Shemaine Campbelle, Shakera Selman and Chedean Nation. Through the course of the series they also lost Hayley Matthews (suspension), Kycia Knight and Shamilia Connell.

Ahead of the series against India, although Campbelle, Nation, Matthews and Selman have returned to the setup, Britney Cooper, Chinelle Henry (for part of the ODI series) and now, Stafanie Taylor have joined the injury list.

Through the ODI series, Stafanie Taylor was the only player standing between India and a win. Her absence in the first T20I between West Indies and India at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St Lucia on Saturday (November 9) meant the hosts were already on the back foot before a ball had been bowled.

However, what resulted, was beyond their worst nightmare— absolute carnage. India’s opening pair of Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana unleashed an onslaught that left the hosts gasping for air. Their half-centuries saw them carve out a 143-run stand in just 15.3 overs— the highest partnership for any wicket in T20Is for India— following which cameos from Veda Krishnamurthy and Harmanpreet Kaur took India to the joint-highest total against West Indies.

Anisa Mohammed, in charge of the squad in the absence of Taylor, attempted to fire up her charges, constantly in the ear of the bowlers, geeing up the fielders and bowling the difficult overs, but the hosts looked flat throughout the game.

Natasha McLean’s performance through the day was a true reflection of her team’s struggles. The burly right-hand batter dropped three catches and was then dismissed for a two-ball duck. At the end of it, she looked desperate to get off the field, much like the rest of her team.

With a quick turnaround to the second T20I at the same venue on Sunday (November 10), the hosts will be desperately hoping that Taylor is fit enough to take the field. She will not only bring a sense of calm and stability to West Indies’ batting line-up, but also much needed form.

India, on the other hand, will be happy with the form they have found. Verma and Mandhana have led the way with their attacking approach, giving India momentum at the start of their innings— something they have been searching for since the T20 World Cup last year. 

The brand of cricket the visitors displayed on Saturday, was something Harmanpreet Kaur will definitely be proud of. Whether it was Verma tonking Shakera Selman over mid-wicket for six, Mandhana charging down the track to smash Afy Fletcher over her head, Krishnamurthy intelligently peppering the square leg boundary, Shikha Pandey attacking the stumps with the new ball or Radha Yadav constantly beating the outside edge, there was aggression in every move India made. They were aware, alert and awake to the opportunity of scoring (quick) runs, taking wickets and snaffling catches. It was a blueprint they had brought to the West Indies almost exactly a year ago— one that they seem to have found again in the islands after much searching across the world.

Going in to match two on Sunday, India are favourites without doubt, but West Indies will be hoping to mount a comeback. As Darren Sammy said on air, they must forget about this game and move on as if it were nothing more than a bad dream.

Squads:

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

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.