“Picking up wickets at regular intervals is important in 50-over cricket. The batsmen sometimes use the option of seeing-away the good bowlers, get their eye in and then explode in the final overs. If Nurse is not going to be a regular wicket-taker, it’s perhaps time Windies start exploring their options, even if that player does not show skills as a batsman”
After a good show in all the matches so far, West Indies finally managed to register a win thanks to an all-round effort. At one point it seemed as though West Indies would find it difficult to register 255-260 on the board, but Ashley Nurse swung his bat around and managed to take Windies to about 20-25 runs more than expected. He then rolled his arm over and finished with impressive figures of 2-43 from his 10 overs. While Nurse’s international records do not depict him as a great bowler, he is sometimes the player you need to have in crunch situations. Nurse is no mug with the bat. He can come in at No. 9 and smash the ball around, just like he did at Pune. Just when the bowling team is looking to wrap things up, having someone in the opposition, who scores a quick 15 or 20 runs is a huge bonus.
With India not playing their regular all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and instead opting for an extra seamer, it was West Indies who seemed to have more depth in their batting. With Jadeja not playing, it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had to bat at No. 7, thereby donning the role of an all-rounder. While Bhuvneshwar has played a few handy knocks in his international career, but playing as the sole all-rounder of the team is perhaps something Bhuvneshwar has rarely done. That’s what proved to be the difference. While Windies had batting till No. 9, for India, the moment Rishabh Pant – coming in at 6 – got out, everyone knew that the match will now depend on how Virat Kohli goes.
Having lost half their side inside 25 overs, West Indies also needed to bat out the overs. They had a decent run-rate thanks to Shimron Hetmyer’s onslaught, but India would not have minded that at that stage as they were picking up wickets at regular intervals. With Kedar Jadhav not in the XI, India were left with just five frontline bowlers and did not have any part-timers in the XI. There was nobody to ease the pressure on the bowlers and give the captain an extra option. Jadhav has rightly been included in the squad for the remainder of the series and he should make the XI in the next match at Mumbai.
We have not seen Nurse make a real contribution with the bat ever since his blistering 21-ball 31 against England at Southampton in September 2017. With Roston Chase – Another off-spinning all-rounder – waiting on the wings, it is all the more important for Nurse to give it all in whichever matches he gets a chance.
As far as Nurse’s bowling is concerned, he is a thinking bowler, who depends more on accuracy and also deceiving the batsman with flight. He will chip away with 1 or 2 wickets every match, while keeping the runs down. While he would want to improve his strike-rate, there is no denying that Nurse is a crucial member of the side. With Chase and also Devendra Bishoo in the side, Nurse gets the nod ahead of them. Nurse bowled well in tandem with Bishoo in the tied match at Vishakapatnam, but West Indies were happy to have just Nurse as their only spinner in the third game. The fact that Marlon Samuels also chipped in with 3 wickets, including that of Kohli. But that may not every match and Nurse will have to shoulder the responsibility.
Some of the best teams in the world, especially from the subcontinent, have their spinners do most of the damage. The Likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are such examples. They pick 2, 3 or evn 4 or more wickets in a match on regular intervals, bowl well anywhere in the world, which is why they are the most feared duo in limited-overs cricket at the moment. However, Windies rely on their fast bowlers, while spinners are most often used to control the run-flow. If they manage to get crucial wickets, great, but that is however not seen as their primary role.
That could be the reason, someone like Nurse has failed to pick up more than 2 wickets since he had figures of 4-62 against Pakistan in April 2017. He has bowled in 27 innings since then and has best figures of 2-33. It is not because he does not get to bowl his entire quota of overs. In fact, in the last 7 ODIs, he has not completed 10 overs, just once.
West Indies may need to include an extra spinner to support Nurse as he at times also gets hammered and need another spinner to do some damage. Wrist spinners seem to be the way go in limited-overs cricket and it is a surprise as to why Bishoo does not feature in the Windies XI every match. Perhaps Nurse’s batting skills give him the edge, but there is no reason as to why the West Indies cannot play two spinners, with Jason Holder and Kemar Roach leading the fast bowling unit.
Picking up wickets at regular intervals is important in 50-over cricket. The batsmen sometimes use the option of seeing-away the good bowlers, get their eye in and then explode in the final overs. If Nurse is not going to be a regular wicket-taker, it’s perhaps time Windies start exploring their options, even if that player does not show skills as a batsman. Nurse’s prowess with both bat and ball will not happen every match. As a result, West Indies will have to find someone who can do that every game.
West Indies do not have much time to experiment before the World Cup in May 2019. They have ODI series in Bangladesh and then welcome England at home. They will have to figure out their best XI by then. They have a balanced team now, with a decent bench strength, but the next couple of tours, will be a crucial one for West Indies.