West Indies v India, Wankhede Stadium: here we go again. In the T20 World Cup semi-final at this venue more than three years ago, India managed only four sixes on their way to a total of 192 for 2. West Indies' power-hitters, led by Lendl Simmons, then made that look a whole lot smaller by smashing 11 sixes. West Indies eventually sealed the chase with seven wickets and two balls to spare.
Under a new management, West Indies are slowly getting their band back together for their T20 World Cup defence and are also easing some bright, young talents from the CPL into their international mix. However, their strength continues to be six-hitting. Case in point: even in this series, West Indies have cracked 27 sixes in comparison to India's 17.
While India have veered from their safety-first approach and are open to experimenting more with their T20 line-up these days, their white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma said that they are comfortable in their own skins and that they aren't looking to emulate West Indies' six-hitting template.
"This format is such that you have to take risks to get on the top," Rohit said on the eve of the third T20I. "Again, for us, it will be important what we as a team can do. Not to try and replicate what the other team is doing or what the other team is trying to do. They back their strength, which is to play a few balls and then go after a big shot. But for us, it's totally different. We believe in taking singles and doubles and putting the pressure on the bowler by getting eight-nine an over without taking risks.
"But again, we are prepared to take risks when it's necessary. But, at the end of the day you want to play smart cricket. And that's how we beat the opposition, by playing smart cricket. We believe in that. Sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't. But we like to back what we do as a team well, which is to play smart cricket. Whether it's taking singles, or doubles, or going after the bowlers - that the situation will tell you. But at the end of the day, the only way you can come on top of the opposition is by playing smart cricket whether with the ball or bat."
Three of West Indies' top-five six-hitters in CPL 2019 are part of the national squad for the T20I series in India. Guyana Amazon Warriors opener Brandon King, who was the leading run-getter in CPL earlier this year, is now being used as a floater on this India tour. In Thiruvananthapuram, West Indies' left-handers, in particular, upset the rhythm of India's spinners.
"We believe in taking singles and doubles and putting the pressure on the bowler by getting eight-nine an over without taking risks." ROHIT SHARMA
India were wary of the "unpredictability" that West Indies' T20I side brings, according to Rohit, but the vice-captain also said that the hosts weren't caught by surprise in the second match.
"Yeah, they [West Indies] are very unpredictable as a team, you never know what they can come up with on that given day, like we saw the other day [Sunday]," he said. "Even the first game, they played very well and it was Virat [Kohli's] brilliance that got us over. But with West Indies this is always expected and they play well as a team and now under the leadership of Kieron Pollard... I know Pollard really well and I know as a leader what he would be expecting from the team.
"It is a different team that we are seeing now, so yes, we have to be at our best when we play them. Like I said they are very unpredictable, so we just got to stick to our plans and back it and believe in whatever ways [we find to] try and execute in the middle. Last game we made some mistakes on the field, whether it was with the bat, ball and also on the field. We know where we lacked as a team so we just need to tighten up in those areas and make sure that those mistakes are not repeated again and again."
Since the 2016 T20 World Cup, India have lost 11 of the 26 T20I games in which they've batted first, but Rohit downplayed those concerns and put that record down to various other factors.
"Wankhede has always been a chasing ground as far as I know, I have played lot of games here. When you talk about setting targets, on that [Thiruvananthapuram] pitch 170-plus was a decent target when we started batting," Rohit said. "The wicket was on the slower side, the shot-making was not that easy, although the West Indies made it look very easy. That's them, like I said that's I meant when I said they are very unpredictable. So, we just have to get everything together and make sure execute those plans - whether it is with the bat or ball.
"Doesn't matter if we bat first or ball first…yes of late our chasing has been good and not posting targets or defending it rather. It was a good target that we posted there [in Thiruvananthapuram] but again it's a new set of guys, lot of inexperienced players along with experienced players, that's what every T20 team now has, bit of inexperience, along with that some experience. Those two elements need to come together to form a very composite [sic] side."