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T20 World Cup: How Team India’s title hopes slowly faded away | Cricket News

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TOI traces the shortcomings in India’s T20 World Cup plans…
Technically India are not out of the World Cup but a solemn acknowledgment of their imperfections won’t be out of order. Having lost their two most important group games, India are unlikely to make it to the semifinals. With a net run rate of -1.609, the best they can do is beat Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia and then hope both New Zealand and Afghanistan lose one of their remaining games to bring NRR into play.
It’s not impossible but a long shot. India have been lacklustre with both bat and ball. On the field, they froze, off it, they have betrayed some confusion.

“There’s only one way to play T20 cricket. You have to be optimistic, you have to be positive and take calculated risks. That’s what this format is about,” Virat Kohli said after the defeat to New Zealand. So far, India have done none of those. TOI looks at some of the factors responsible…
India boasts the world’s best T20 league, in pure cricketing terms, but that staggering wealth of strategizing and innovation hasn’t permeated into the national team. The failure to learn from the IPL has been apparent in this World Cup on several fronts:
(a) The selectors punted on established names and went by reputation, a very 50-over approach and never a good idea in a format in which a few balls can change the outcome. On the bowling front, where were the Harshal Patels, Avesh Khans and Arshdeep Singhs who just impressed in the IPL on these same pitches? With the bat, where were Ruturaj Gaekwad, Shikhar Dhawan, Sanju Samson and Prithvi Shaw?
(b) On the field too, India invested their trust in non-performers. Hardik Pandya was unfit and undercooked yet persisted with. And if the idea was to rely on experience, why recall R Ashwin yet not play him against Pakistan and New Zealand, especially with the other spinners struggling to take wickets? Why drop Bhuvneshwar Kumar after a single bad game? Were the selectors and the team management not on the same page?

(c) India sorely lacked a sixth bowling option who could be a legitimate wicket-taker. Playing Ravindra Jadeja meant one of their frontline bowlers offered merely a restrictive option. In contrast, other leading teams boast 6-7 wicket-taking options.
(d) India did lose both tosses in a tournament heavily in favour of the chasing team but their struggles defending totals in this format is now new. Since the 2016 T20 World Cup, they have won only 24 (including two Super Over wins) of 41 matches batting first, a 58.54% success rate. In contrast, they have won 76.67% matches while chasing, in five years, that safety-first approach batting first did not change, resulting in India hitting only six sixes in their first two games this time. Against Pakistan, they managed only 36 in the Powerplay and lost 3 wickets. Against NZ, they managed 35 and lost two. Did they err by packing their top order with accumulators?
(e) The Indian batsmen also continued the recent pattern of struggling against quality spin. On Sunday, Mitchell Santner and Man of the match Ish Sodhi gave away only 32 runs off their 8 overs. In panic, India played a lot of attacking shots which didn’t come off. Kohli’s 17-ball 9 showcased this struggle.

India decided to play musical chairs with the top order but it only betrayed a sense of indecisiveness.
After the Pakistan game, Virat Kohli lost his patience when asked if Ishan Kishan could have been played at the top of the order. “Will you drop Rohit Sharma,” was his testy reply. The very next game, Kohli went with Kishan and Rahul as openers, Rohit at No..3 and demoted himself to No. 4.
The move failed spectacularly. Perhaps Suryakumar Yadav‘s untimely back spasms messed up their plans. India were hoping Rahul would replicate his 42-ball 98 (against CSK) and Kishan could come up with something similar to the 32-ball 84 (against SRH). But doing it together in a World Cup game against the NZ attack? Wishful thinking. The muddle at the top meant the boundaries dried up later on between overs 7-15, a first for any team in the tournament.
Even with the ball, their approach was least-risk, least-reward: both Shardul Thakur and Ravindra Jadeja are frontline bowling options who are often picked for their batting contributions. And as for Varun Chakravarthy, Kohli handled him awkwardly. Perhaps Yuzvendra Chahal would have been a better fit in the captain’s plans.

Many leading batsmen carried their IPL form into the World Cup. Rohit Sharma (0 against Pak, 14 off 14 against NZ after being dropped first ball) is the only member from India’s winning 2007 campaign still around, but he hasn’t sparkled in T20 World Cups for some time: his last 10 innings have fetched him only 160 runs @ 16. In T20Is, he averages 25.29 combined against Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, SA and Lanka. He averaged 17.60 in the 2016 edition.
Rishabh Pant, for all his six-hitting prowess, too seemed confused about his role. Perhaps the flurry of early wickets unsettled him. A strike rate of 104.28 from these 2 games doesn’t do justice to his explosive potential.
And what of Hardik Pandya? The team management’s obstinate faith in his batting capabilities isn’t reflected in the figures: In 7 T20 WC games he now has 50 total runs at 12.50 (SR 108.69).

Kohli’s sudden announcement that he would relinquish the T20 captaincy after this tournament may have been untimely. Why not relinquish the captaincy before the World Cup itself, allowing the new captain to firm up his plans? Why not announce the resignation after? And did the introduction of Dhoni as mentor introduce one strategist too many? The team gave off unsettled vibes in the lead-up and this reflected in their performance.

Last but not least, the constant bubble life and the two-phase IPL tired the Indian team out. They were listless and fatigued and desperately looking for a break by the time the World Cup arrived. Kohli has been repeatedly harping on how a packed schedule is not feasible in a pandemic. Jasprit Bumrah acknowledged as much after the defeat to NZ: “You need a break. You miss your family. You have been on the road for six months. We try to adapt…but sometimes bubble fatigue sets in.” Can India fall back on the schedule as an excuse?
(Statistical inputs by Rajesh Kumar)

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