Deepak Hooda was brought into the attack in the 10th over, ostensibly as a partnership-breaker. West Indies had made a buzzing start after winning the toss as Kyle Mayers took the attack to the Indian seamers, especially ODI debutant Avesh Khan, right from the outset. Shardul Thakur conceded 13 runs in his first over. Even Shai Hope, usually a slow starter, was showing intent.
Hooda’s first ball stopped a bit on Mayers and the batsman chipped back an easy return catch. The bowling change worked. In the grand scheme of things, the way Hooda bowled in this game, he offered encouragement, with an eye to the 50-over World Cup in India next year.
A second spin-allrounder will be part of the playing eleven in Indian conditions and Hooda is showing potential to be developed into one.
In the first ODI two days ago, he was used as a filler, bowling five overs and conceding 22 runs in a high-scoring game. On Sunday, in the second ODI, he bowled well enough to get nine overs, in two spells. His first spell read: 6-0-23-1 and his second: 3-0-19-0. Yet again, he went under five runs per over, at Queen’s Park Oval, a ground that has relatively smaller boundaries. Credit to Shikhar Dhawan for using him well.
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Hooda is not a big turner of the ball. But he bowls tight, stump-to-stump, and bowls to his field. Occasionally, he isn’t afraid to give the ball a bit of air. And on Sunday, he reacted well, when the batsmen tried to take him on. His ninth over was a case in point. Nicholas Pooran, well set by then, launched him over long-off for a six. The West Indies captain was ready to cut loose. But Hooda responded well with a couple of dot balls. He dragged back the length a little, bowled straighter and didn’t allow the batsman to free his arms.
Hooda has already announced his arrival in T20Is, as a batsman, scoring 205 runs in six games, including a century, at a strike rate of 172.26. It wowed the fans to the extent of criticising the team management on social media, when he was dropped to accommodate Virat Kohli in the T20Is in England. In the 50-over format, Hooda has been given the role of a finisher, at No. 6. He looked a tad uncomfortable in the first ODI, scoring 27 off 32 balls. But batting at No. 6 is a difficult job in white-ball cricket and it takes time to get into the groove.
Hard-hitting is Hooda’s forte. If he chips in with some overs of tight off-spin, the 27-year-old can be a serious option for the second spin-allrounder’s slot, playing alongside Ravindra Jadeja. It’s early days, but there’s a player who can be groomed to emulate Yusuf Pathan’s role at the 2011 World Cup, with the next 50-over showpiece still more than a year away. As rotation has become the order of the day in Indian cricket, Hooda has emerged as a positive.
Pathan was pretty effective during India’s 2011 World Cup-winning campaign, offering depth and balance. After that, Kedar Jadhav played that role for a period. At the moment, Axar Patel is Jadeja’s back-up in terms of left-arm spin, but he is not a genuine all-rounder. Hooda is essentially a batsman, who can be used up the order and also at the death. His presence gives the team the required flexibility. A lot, though, will depend on how he shapes up in the next few months, but maybe, the team management can think about giving him a few games at a stretch, even after the big guns return.
The second seam-allrounder, beyond Hardik Pandya, remains an area of concern however. Thakur is being used in that role in this series, but the medium pacer is leaking runs, although he has a knack of taking wickets. In the first ODI, he took the important wickets of Shamarh Brooks and Mayers in quick succession, but gave away 54 runs in eight overs.
On Sunday, he returned with 3/54 from seven overs, as West Indies posted 311/6. Hope laid the foundation with 115 off 135 balls in his 100th ODI. Pooran scored 74 off 77 deliveries. The Caribbeans have lost seven ODIs on the spin and are desperately seeking course correction.
Brief scores: West Indies 311/6 (Shai Hope 115, Nicholas Pooran 74; Shardul Thakur 3/54)