In his column for the Times of India, Laxman wrote, “To say that India’s batting against New Zealand was disappointing will be an understatement. Several times in the past few months, India have bounced back from setbacks with courage and positivity. It might have been in a different format, but resilience and self-belief is what one has come to expect of the current Indian side. None of that was on view in Dubai on Sunday.”
New Zealand inflicted a crushing eight-wicket defeat on India which put the tournament favorites on the brink of elimination. India’s much-trumpeted batters flopped for the second time — after a 10-wicket defeat to Pakistan — reaching only 110/7 after New Zealand chose to bowl.
“India had so many things going for them leading into the tournament. There was experience, great skill and an understanding of what they would expect in the T20 World Cup, given that they had just finished playing in the IPL in the UAE. Armed with all that knowledge, you’d have expected India’s batsmen to give a better account of themselves. 110 for seven, no matter how superbly New Zealand bowled, is simply not acceptable. It will be interesting to know what target India had in mind when they went out to bat, and what was the communication from the openers to the dugout after the first couple of overs,” Laxman added.
The heavy defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan last week at the same venue appeared to still be playing on the minds of India’s batters as wickets tumbled against both the spin and speed of the Black Caps.
“For the first time in my recollection, I saw apprehension, if not fear, on the faces of the batsmen. They were hesitant and uncertain, and it reflected in faulty shot selection. Three wickets in the first eight overs didn’t help their cause against a New Zealand attack which bowled tight lines and gave nothing away. India would have come prepared with their plans to counter the Kiwi discipline, but those never manifested themselves on the park,” Laxman opined.
Ish Sodhi bowled an impressive spell of 2-17 in the middle overs and picked up the key wickets of Rohit Sharma (14) and Virat Kohli (9) as both tried to break New Zealand’s grip but holed out in the deep. Rishabh Pant (12) failed to hit a boundary off the 19 balls he faced before he dragged an Adam Milne delivery back onto his stumps.
“As the runs dried up, the pressure on Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant mounted. Virat is usually the master at working the gaps and manipulating the field but it didn’t come off on this night. Rishabh is still on the learning curve, a free-striking batsman without fear but he must realise that transferring pressure on the bowlers need not be only through sixes. India’s chances of making the semis hang by a slender thread. They have no choice but to go out and win their three remaining games handsomely to salvage their poor net run rate. That won’t be easy, but international sport necessitates you to shed the baggage of the past,” Laxman signed off.
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