Team India in T20 World Cup: Different year, same stuff

Well, it is done. Different year, same stuff. Another semi-final defeat and yet another toothless show in an ICC knockout game. Winning and losing are a part and parcel of sport. India’s defeat to England doesn’t hurt. It is the manner of the defeat which hurts.

A 10-wicket mauling wherein England openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales ripped the Indian bowling attack apart to chase down the 169-run total in just 16 overs. 13 boundaries and 10 sixes, the game was done.

T20 is a fickle format and bowlers can go for runs on a bad day. Hales and Buttler going hammer and tongs didn’t hurt. What did hurt was the Indian batters’ failure to showcase similar intent when asked to put up a total. In fact, SKY and Kohli accumulated 52.97% of India’s runs in the T20 World Cup.

All the talks of new template and high-risk intent with the bat was nowhere to be seen in this T20 World Cup. It in fact never came. Had it not been for Suryakumar Yadav (239 runs at strike-rate of 189.68) and Virat Kohli (296 runs at strike-rate of 136.40), India would have faced an embarrassing Super 12 exit.

The contest between India and England was done in the powerplay. The way both the teams approached the first six overs, was the biggest differential. India posted 38/1. England were 63/0. See the difference?

In 2022, India’s powerplay approach witnessed a bit of a shakeup. Rohit was going all-out from word go. The makeshift openers like Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Suryakumar Yadav, Ruturaj Gaikwad among others, all tried to up the ante in the run-up to the T20 World Cup. India’s powerplay run-rate in bilateral series was 8.59. In the Asia Cup, it was 8.00. However, in the T20 World Cup, everything changed suddenly. The PP run-rate dipped to 6.02. It affected the entire template. The middle-order suddenly came under pressure to strike at 190-200 SR. While Suryakumar bailed the Men in Blue out a numerous times, the law of averages caught up to him in the semis.

Coming to the openers, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. Their batting show will haunt the duo for a while. Rohit’s strike rate in 2022 in the lead up to the World Cup was 142.40. In the showpiece tournament, it dipped to 106.40 with just 116 runs in six matches. KL Rahul’s SR dropped from 129.10 to 120.80 with just 128 runs in six games. If you remove his half-centuries against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, his numbers make for a grim reading. In fact, India’s run-rate from opening stands in the Super 12 stage was just 4.98 runs per over – worst among all the teams.

The batting effort during the course of the tournament wasn’t good enough and it is high time the BCCI and Indian team management reflect on the failures. Reflect and make changes. There is no dearth of young blood.

Coming to the bowlers, India went with the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. Two finger spinners who can also help the team increase the batting depth.

Ashwin and Axar bowled a combined 17 overs (minus Netherlands and Zimbabwe matches) and ended up conceding 169 runs with just one wicket to their tally. Yuzvendra Chahal, the only wrist spinner in the team, also the lead spinner in the run-up to the T20 World Cup, didn’t play a single game in the tournament.

Whereas other teams used their leggies to perfection, especially on the larger boundaries in Australian grounds.

In the Super 12 stage, leg-spinners have bowled 132 overs while conceding 914 runs at an economy rate of 6.93. Add to that a total of 41 wickets. Only three teams didn’t use wrist spinners – India, Netherlands and Bangladesh. The right-arm offies have bowled 111 overs while conceding 832 runs at an economy rate of 7.46 with 34 wickets to their tally.

Chahal in 19 T20Is in 2022 scalped 21 wickets. But he was nowhere to be seen in the playing XI in the T20 World Cup. Perhaps a sense of rigidity by the team management or lack of trust upon one of India’s leading wicket takers in the shortest format of the game. Not witnessing Chahal in action was baffling.

Acceptance of not being up to the mark to the demands of modern day T20 cricket is the first thing the team management must do as it enters a transition phase. England not only hammered India but also showcased the benchmark of T20 cricket and it is about time we take a cue from it.

With the next T20 World Cup lined up in 2024, India have plenty of time to reflect. The Men in Blue will play only 12 T20Is till the 2023 ODI World Cup. Plenty of new faces will be tried and tested, some will sparkle, some will fail.

India will next take on New Zealand in three T20Is (Hardik Pandya captain) and as many ODIs (Shikhar Dhawan captain) starting November 18.

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