Guwahati: For India, the T20 World Cup is all but over. Permutations and combinations going ahead might keep statisticians busy but India need a miracle to stay in contention. They first need to secure resounding victories in their remaining matches against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia — and hope that New Zealand slip badly against Afghanistan.
In effect, though, the team’s campaign is done after just two matches at this high-profile ICC event as it went down to New Zealand by eight wickets Sunday, days after it lost to Pakistan by ten wickets.
But the insipid show was not just because of the bowling unit that has now taken a grand total of two wickets in two games. This was a systemic failure. There were quite a few decisions that backfired. From a changed opening combination to poor shot selection, India were prisoners of confusion in the must-win game against New Zealand.
Consider the case of sending World T20 debutant Ishan Kishan to open and demoting old hand Rohit Sharma in this pressure game. The intention was that the left-hander could attack the left-handed bowling of Trent Boult & Co. But it seemed like India was shielding their best batsman, Sharma, against Boult’s inswing.
Or, look at the way they batted against New Zealand’s spinners — not a single boundary. And when they tried, the shot selection was questionable. How often do you see 54 dot balls in a T20 innings?
Skipper Virat Kohli, though, blamed it on the team’s attitude. “I don’t think we were brave enough with bat or ball. Every time we took a chance, we lost a wicket. It’s most often a result of hesitation of whether you should go for a shot or not… Didn’t have much to defend but we weren’t brave when we walked out to the field,” he said after the match.
A team with a skipper, who personifies boldness, succumbed to timidity. Kohli admitted as much when he said: “When you play for India, there are loads of expectations. We are watched, people come to the stadium and everyone who plays for India needs to embrace that and cope with it. We haven’t done that in these two games, and that’s why we haven’t won.”
Between the sixth and sixteenth overs, India failed to hit a single four. Once again, Kohli got stuck against spin — his strike-rate against slow bowlers is 102 over the last one-and-a-half years.
Coming to poor shot selection, Rohit got a reprieve in the first ball he faced. The Indian T20I team’s captain-designate failed to capitalise on that and got out playing a loose stroke. Kohli chose to slog-sweep a dipping leg-break from spinner Ish Sodhi that was well outside off. Rishabh Pant’s across-the-line swipe off Adam Milne wasn’t a prudent call, either.
The Pandya selection, too, came back to haunt India. After a long hiatus, and despite a serious question mark over his bowling fitness, the all-rounder rolled his arm over in a competitive game, looking pedestrian in the two overs he bowled. Stubbornness over the No. 4 batting position cost India the 2019, 50-over World Cup. The Pandya stand has forced India very close to the exit door here.
Also, why veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was brought back to the T20 fold to warm the bench through this tournament has been anybody’s guess.
On the face of it, the Indian players came to this tournament battle-ready, on the heels of the IPL. Almost all the players in the squad were marquee signings for their respective IPL teams. And yet, a country that boasts the game’s most high-profile T20 league fizzled at the World Cup. A team with a jumbo coaching staff couldn’t get their planning right.
It now has to be asked if M S Dhoni’s induction as the team mentor was surplus to requirement and undermined Kohli’s authority as captain. In the end, after two matches at the T20 World Cup, India are yet to open their account and their net run-rate is minus 1.60.
(Inputs From Indian Express)