All defeats hurt. Some of them sting and leave a long-lasting impact on the sufferer. India’s loss in the second ODI against Bangladesh which also cost them the series belongs to this category. It was not merely about India losing. It was about the manner they let the initiative slip. Considering that this happened twice in two games, there are reasons to ask whether this lot is the right one looking ahead to next year’s World Cup.
Since the World Cup to be hosted by India is about 10-11 months away, let us stay in the present instead of looking that far ahead. And this reality bites. Bangladesh were 69/6 after 19 overs. The Indian bowlers were on top even with captain Rohit Sharma out with injury. Mahmudullah and Mehidy Hasan Miraz formed the last recognised batting pair and for India, it was a question of taking one more wicket.
But instead of going for the kill, stand-in skipper KL Rahul relied mostly upon spinners Washington Sundar and Axar Patel when the partnership got going. That is where India lost the match. There is a golden rule in all sports. When the opposition is cornered, finish them off. Don’t give them a chance to come back. That is what champion teams or teams aspiring to be champions do. Once the opposition is down, make sure they are out.
That is what India failed to do. Mahmudullah and Mehidy were allowed to bat in a manner that suggested nothing had happened. They were one wicket away from getting all out for an embarrassing total and yet, made it look like it was cool! Yes, they deserve a lot of credit for the way they resurrected the innings, especially Mehidy, who followed up his last-wicket heroics in the last match with an unbelievable century. Equally unmistakable was the fact that India helped their cause.
You have included Umran Malik in the XI because he is an impact bowler, one who doesn’t have great control, but can force batters into awkward positions with his pace. He was barely used when the partnership started prospering. It was this defensive mentality which cost India dear in the end. At times, one has to take risks without thinking who will bowl the death overs. And that is what India did not do. One more wicket and it was most likely their match.
This unwillingness to make things happen and waiting for things to happen saw Bangladesh gallop away. From 69/6 after 19 overs, they moved to 169/6 after 40 and then added 102 in the last 10, with the last four overs producing 54. This has to be among the greatest of recoveries in ODIs in recent times. Was it bad captaincy, poor planning, an averseness for taking chances, passive mentality, lack of inputs from the coaching staff? Possibly all of this and more!
When it came to batting, losing two wickets early on pushed India to the back foot straightaway. They did recover through the 107-run fifth-wicket stand between Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel, but the task kept getting tougher once they got out. Rohit came in late and played an absolute blinder to take his team within touching distance. You feel bad for him because despite getting to face just two balls in the 47th and 48th overs, he almost made a match of it.
But then, this was shameful. Losing the first match after letting Bangladesh add 50-plus for the last wicket and then allow them to score 271 from 69/6, this is unbecoming of the richest cricket team in the world. This team needs fresh doses of a lot of things. Thoughts, personnel, approach, attitude — there has to be new inputs. The World Cup is far away. But the process must begin now.