By Prarthana Mitra
The West Indies tour of India enters its last leg as the two countries prepare to battle it out in the three-match T20 series that begins today at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
For those keeping score, the Windies lost the Test series 2-0 and the five-match ODI series 3-1 to India. While the second match ended in a tie, the hosts won the last match by 9 wickets. Confidence on the pitch will naturally be in favour of the Indian team, which has seen remarkable performance over the tournament that is likely to determine team formation for the coming World Cup series next year. But it would do well for the men in blue to fix their middle order inconsistency and be wary of the defending World T20 champions today.
Indian skipper Virat Kholi who returned to captaincy over the ODI has taken a sabbatical again, which means Rohit Sharma is back in charge. The omission of MS Dhoni from today’s match is heartening but was foreseeable given his lacklustre performance in the ODI. 21-year-old Rishabh Pant who shone on the crease in the 50-overs format replaces him. Other youngsters Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya and Shahbaz Nadeem will prove their mettle alongside seasoned batsmen and pacers like Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav and Shikhar Dhawan.
West Indies too also announced a change in captaincy, with Carlos Braithwaite going for the toss later today. It was in the same venue four years back, that he hit four successive sixes in the final over, clinching the World T20 crown in 2016 for the Windies. The big news, however, is the return of Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard to the squad after two and one years respectively, owing to conflict with the cricket board. Yet, Eden Gardens reports a lack of interest in cricket’s shortest format with not enough tickets sold to make it a packed house.
Usually, during the practice days in the lead-up to an international fixture, cricket fans in Kolkata arrive outside the 66,000-strong stadium to cheer the players and click pictures with them. But it was unnaturally quiet at the stadium on Saturday. While the high price of tickets may be a reason, the Cricket Association of Bengal reported that there were 15,000 free tickets for this game but even that quota is yet to be exhausted. As for priced tickets, more than 12,000 tickets were still available two days before the T20 series opener.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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