As the dust settles on the Indian defeat and we come to terms with yet another semi-final exit, it is important to keep calm and exercise restraint. No one is hurting more than the players themselves and it is important we empathise and back the team. While no over the top reaction is required, it is important to take stock and introspect. Analyse what went wrong and why is it happening time and again?
The one difference between the English and Indian approach is fear of failure. England played without fear while the Indians were scared of losing. It made England aggressive and India defensive. Does KL Rahul not have the shots? He absolutely does and we have seen that multiple times in the past. However, his urge to play himself in, give himself a few extra balls without trying to attack is because he just doesn’t want to fail. Rather, he is scared of failing and was trying too hard. Just like in the 2003 final against Australia where India was overcharged, against England the players were desperate not to fail. As a result they turned defensive. It was a safety first approach and it backfired. This is where one has to question Paddy Upton. What exactly was his role? What did he achieve? Why is it that the team looked mentally scared going into the game?
Except Hardik who teed off in the last five and pushed India to a competitive total, every other batter let balls go without attacking the English bowlers. 7 overs for 41 runs from the spinners sum up the story. India lost just 1 wicket in the powerplay. Not 3 or 4. And yet there was no real push from either of the two batters at the crease. And this has to be attributed to a mindset. Can Rohit and Virat not play shots? Of course they can. They are the best in the world and have played many a memorable knock. But here they seemed desperate not to get out and as a result even full tosses were batted off to long on and not really attacked.
Is this approach a result of pressure that the Indian team is always under? New Zealand too has lost in the semi-finals and there’s hardly any talk about it. For us on the other hand it is like national mourning. Players are being castigated and all seems lost.
Where we go wrong is when constructive criticism turns to abuse. Take the case of Dinesh Kartik. DK made the team by sheer hard work and tremendous mental fortitude. That he could still make the team was unthinkable a year ago. But he did not give up and pushed himself to the brink to force open the door to the world cup. Yes the world cup was poor for DK. And he will be the first person to accept that. But who are we to say he should retire? Will someone tell a journalist to stop writing if he writes a bad story or misses one? Does a politician give up after one defeat? Does a medical professional stop practicing if he isn’t able to save a patient? To retire or not is DK’s decision. Entirely his own. No one can tell him what to do about his career. Yes the selectors can decide not to pick him and that’s why they are there. They need to make the hard calls if they think such calls are the need of the hour. But to say DK is a part time cricketer and full time commentator is a pack of rubbish.
It is time to take a step back and think what went wrong and how we can improve. Australia 2022 is history. No amount of abuse will get India to the final. Rather, we need a new vision for the format. A T-20 roadmap of sorts which will define our approach to the shortest version of the game. That India has the money is known. That we have the world’s best T-20 league is now a given. There is no reason why we will not win a world event. And yet we haven’t for 10 years. So let’s hit the nail on the head. Let’s address the core issue- fear of failure.
If our players are able to overcome the inner fear, no reason why we won’t win. England played free and this was because they batted deep. They leaned on a batting heavy approach whereas India tried to balance everything out. England went all in. We did not. In T-20 cricket safety first won’t work and the faster we come to terms with it the better it is for us. With just 10 T-20 internationals planned for the next year, it is clearly not the format of choice. This is where we can start fresh. Experiment with a new approach and make a new beginning. The defeat is history. The future is in our hands.