Mahendra Singh Dhoni would never have allowed the West Indies to win from 211 for eight. For no nine, 10 and Jack — Kemar Roach, Sunil Narine and Tino Best — to knock off the 19 runs required for victory was just not on. It was a sluggish Kingston Jamaica wicket where regular batsmen have struggled to get going in both the matches of the One-Day International (ODI) tri-series so far. There was appreciable turn on offer too, so the West Indies can count themselves lucky that their tailenders were not put under more pressure.
The mistake India made was the under-utilisation of Suresh Raina. He has always been hard to get away on a wicket where his off-spin grips and turns. He is an intelligent bowler and played a key role in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England just the other day. For stand-in skipper Virat Kohli to have used him for just two overs made no sense at all. He brought him on only in the 42nd over. Raina struck in his second over with the wicket of Sunil Narine. Then, inexplicably, Raina was taken off, even though he had given only four runs and taken a wicket in his two overs. Kohli turned instead to Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to get the last West Indian wicket. But Roach and Best had no problems knocking the pace bowlers about for the 10 remaining runs to reach their target.
It’s spin the West Indies tail would have found harder to negotiate — pace is something they get enough exposure to on their domestic circuit. It was a mistake firstly not to have introduced Raina into the attack earlier on that wicket, and kept a few overs in reserve from the main spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the death — that’s what Dhoni had done in the Champions Trophy final. But even at the end, after Ashwin and Jadeja had been bowled out, if Kohli had let Raina continue, following his dismissal of Narine, India might still have pulled it off.
Kohli looks a little too agitated as a captain, quite the opposite of Dhoni. Nothing wrong with a little aggro, provided it’s effective. But Kohli seems to put his own team members on edge instead of helping them relax under pressure. Long-winded confabulations too did not help in the end game. He has had a similar showing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 too, where he failed to take a strong Bangalore team into the play-offs.
The person who could emulate “Captain Cool” is Rohit Sharma. He was a revelation as captain of Mumbai Indians in the IPL after a canny Ricky Ponting handed over the reins to him. He was both tactically sound and calm under pressure, and even got the better of Dhoni in the IPL final. If only, he would learn from Kohli not to throw his wicket away after getting well set, he would make a terrific vice-captain.
Kohli acknowledged after the match that Dhoni was missed when the game got tense. Next time, perhaps he should turn to another cool, wise head on the field for guidance — Rohit Sharma, of course.