India began the one-day series as favourites, but one game into the series, and West Indies have already given them a reason to worry. In spite of the off-field problems with pay, West Indies managed to overcome the Indian challenge in conditions that obviously suited the home team. Possibly, the pay dispute galvanised the team, as they put up a wonderful all-round effort. The win will give West Indies plenty of confidence even as they battle off-field issues. India, on the other hand, will need to completely reverse the performance that they came up with at Kochi.
India's bowling in the series opener was highly disappointing. In fact, in the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin, they looked a completely weak bowling outfit. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the only bowler, who made an impression of sorts. He kept the runs down, and bowled a tight line even as the others struggled. Mohit Sharma needs to show some variation. He clearly hasn't justified his ODI selection yet. Mohammad Shami may have claimed four wickets, but like Ishant Sharma, even he is proving to be extremely expensive. The pace department has got to show some significant improvements in the second ODI.
As stated before, Ashwin's absence has hurt India. Amit Mishra has experience, but his consistency may be called into question. The leggie had an impressive run in the Indian side till a few months back, but hasn't been as good in his last few outings. In fact, his big-match performance was called into question during the semis and final of the World T20. He needs to show some fight in the series to resurrect his career. Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina cannot be expected to come up with match-winning efforts everytime. Hence, India might look up to chinaman Kuldeep Yadav in the near future.
India's batting also needs to improve by leaps and bounds in comparison to Kochi. Of all batsmen, only Shikhar Dhawan crossed the half-century mark, and that is just not good enough in a one-day game. Better contributions will be expected from all the seniors in the game. India could experiment with Ambati Rayudu batting at number three, and sending the out of form Virat Kohli below him, as Sunil Gavaskar suggested. Hopefully, the move will work for Kohli, and India. Better contributions will also be expected from the likes of Dhoni, Jadeja and the rest.
India have it in them to fight back from the Kochi debacle. They will have to pick themselves up, since going to Australia with a loss under their belt wouldn't do them a lot of good. It would only raise more questions for Indian cricket. They may have won the ODI series in England. However, the fact is that, like in Tests, they have been inconsistent in the one-day format as well. They will thus need to show steady improvements in the coming matches. Are they game for a fight against an inspired West Indies side, we'll know soon.
--By A Cricket Analyst