Mumbai: Series tied at 1-1. A must win contest. An exuberant, young side showing what they have what it takes to fight. You have gone from winning comprehensively to drawing and now losing - throwing it all away in vital situations - raising serious doubts over the team with they 2019 World Cup just 15 games away. How do you respond?
In what looked like an effort to make up for dispirited showing in Pune, India won. But they did it in their own way, just like they did in Guwahati and just like what is always expected of them - being relentless, ruthless and dominant.
And as cricket marked a return at the iconic Brabourne after a nine-year hiatus, India coasted to a crushing 224-run victory, going 2-1 up in the five-match rubber.
While the asking rate was soaring high, it seemed as the pressure was taking a toll on the visitors. And rightly so, after Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent Hemraj packing, they slumped from 20-1 to 20-3 in just a span of an over. Where was the same West Indies side that turned up in Pune?
Khaleel with his raw pace and dangerous inswingers then tore apart the middle order to pile misery on the Caribbean side. The wickets kept tumbling. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja joined the party. But there stayed Holder. Relaxed, composed and unperturbed about what was going around him.
The rugged and lanky batsman kept ploughing a lonely furrow with a gutsy innings despite losing partners at the other end. The screaming, chanting and the whistles had disappeared.
The long wait for innings to end was evident from this one liner: “Kedar, bowling taak. Kedar, bowling taak (Kedar, go have a bowl),” a fan from the stands yelled repeatedly to the diminutive all-rounder, fielded at the long-on boundary.
But a Kuldeep googly finally rattled the timber of Kemar Roach to put an end to things. India had won it. And had done it in their own way.
Earlier, explosive tons by Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma made sure West Indies had to do more then what they had done in Pune.
Confident that the dew would not play a big factor in the 2nd innings, India won the toss and elected to bat - only the third time they chose to do so in 2018, twice already this series.
With the visitors having exposed their middle-order frailties already this series, the Men in Blue were boosted by the return of Kedar Jadhav along with Ravindra Jadeja who was swapped for Yuzvendra Chahal.
Rohit and Dhawan were quick to get off the blocks with a flawless fifty stand for the opening wicket as the ball nicely came to the bat along with the the quick outfield making the boundary routes much accessible.
But just when the two looked in the groove for a big one, the immediate introduction of debutant Keemo Paul paid dividends as he removed Dhawan.
The swashbuckling southpaw miscued the hook, failing to capitalise on a good start and was giving a perfect send off with his own ‘Gabbar’ celebration mimicked by the 20-year-old prodigy as the opening stand was breached.
While racking tons have developed into a norm for Virat Kohli of late, the India skipper displayed he is indeed human - edging one off a Kemar Roach delivery that confirmed Kumar Sangakkara’s feat of four consecutive ODI tons stayed intact.
Although Rayudu displayed his credentials yet again for India’s number slot with controlled aggression, Rohit was at his effusive best as the duo kept milking runs in the middle to knock the wind off Windies’ sails.
Hitman Rohit led the charge - first cruising to a comfortable half-century and later on switched gears to continue the assault with just pure instinctive hitting. Not only did he manoeuvre the bounce of the wicket to great extent but calculated use of the back foot against the spinners reflected his intent to stay out in the middle.
Following his fifty, the Mumbai batsman plundered 112 of the remaining 77 deliveries in a majestic knock of 162 that comprised of 20 boundaries and six maximums. But the early expectations of another double hundred were put to sword by Ashley Nurse after the right-hander slashed hard to Kieron Powell at short third man.
Rayudu, on the other hand, complemented the opener handsomely as he paced his innings to perfection, romping to just his 3rd ODI ton as the hosts strolled past the 300 barrier in fine fashion with an instrumental 211-run stand, averaging a boundary every 5.4 deliveries.
While Rohit displayed the perfect example of stand and deliver, the Hyderabad batsman toyed with the visitors’ field placements by dancing around the crease and down the wicket.
Fabian Allen sent Rayudu back to the pavilion with a runout in the dying stages but by then the damage had already been done....