Having lost Gayle to an injury during the 1st ODI that they lost, West Indies will find it difficult to stop India from claiming the series on Sunday. (BCCI Images)
Visakhapatnam: West Indies's best bet of levelling the three-match ODI series against India was Chris Gayle getting a big score at the top to challenge the Indians, but with the Jamaican ruled out, the series is there for the hosts to pocket when the two teams meet at Visakhapatnam in the second ODI on Sunday.
India raced home to a comprehensive six-wicket win at Kochi on Thursday, but the damage for the Windies was done in the first over of the day itself. In a desperate attempt to make his ground while stealing a single, Gayle had to dive into his crease. But not only did he get run out, the big man also tore a muscle that put him out of the series.
The reigning Twenty20 champions were expected to be competitive in the limited-overs leg of their tour after suffering an embarrassing whitewash in the two-Test series. But the visitors continue to fail in putting up a fight.
India spinners Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and part-timer Suresh Raina shared eight wickets between them to pack up the West Indies for 211 in Kochi. India replied with familiar aggression with Rohit Sharma (72) and Virat Kohli (86) striking brisk fifties to lead a six-wicket win with more than 14 overs to spare.
En route, Kohli matched Vivian Richards's record of 5000 ODI runs in least number of innings, reaching the landmark in 114 innings - the same as the West Indian legend. Rohit, on the other hand, continues to be revelation since being asked to open in the Champions Trophy. His 26 matches as opener have now yielded 1172 runs at an average of 53.27.
An all-round show thus should prevent Dhoni from making any changes to the eleven before pocketing the series.
The return of Dwayne Bravo as captain of the ODI side and summoning limited-overs specialists couldn't reverse West Indies's fortunes in Kochi. And sans Gayle, it's going to get tougher for the visitors in Vizag.
The Windies have a lot to do so as to make an impact. Their batsmen are not showing the right temperament as was admitted by Test skipper Darren Sammy who too has been criticised for lack of contribution to the team as an allrounder.
It remains to be seen whether the team think-tank will make any drastic changes in their must-win match by dropping the Test skipper. Kieran Powell should get a look-in after Gayle's unfortunate injury.
Much would depend on their big-hitters as was shown by wicketkeeper batsman Johnson Charles in the last ODI at Kochi, while the Bravo brothers (Dwayne and Darren) and Marlon Samuels will have to take the responsibility as experienced performers.
Mystery spinner Sunil Narine and pacer Ravi Rampaul couldn't do much in either containing the Indians in Kochi or taking wickets when it mattered, but they will still be the key to team's bowling hopes.
But there's that threat of rain again.
Though rain has subsided and there's no forecast for showers on Sunday, it remains to be seen how the wicket behaves after two days of incessant rains because of cyclone 'Helen' that hit coastal Andhra Friday afternoon. Both the teams, therefore, opted out of practice to give the groundsmen ample time to get the stadium ready in time.
Historically, the ACA-VDCA Stadium remains a happy hunting ground for India, who have won all their four matches, right from the day Dhoni, in his henna-coloured hair, blasted onto the scene with a 123-ball 148 demolition of Pakistan. The in-form Kohli also has happy memories of the venue, with two consecutive centuries and a chance to complete a hat-trick of tons on Sunday.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9, Bhuvneshwear Kumar, 10, Mohammad Shami, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
West Indies: 1 Kieran Powell, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Lendl Simmons, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Narsingh Deonarine, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Jason Holder
With PTI inputs