Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - What hurt India at the T20 WC. Defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand meant India couldn't make it past Super 12s.
Defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand meant India couldn't make it past Super 12s.
Batting relations and role familiarity
On March 20, 2021, India completed a statement-making T20I series win over England, a five-match bout between two World Cup favourites that ended on a telling note. Virat Kohli had lost another toss but his batting unit had amassed 224 and then defended it expertly courtesy Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The Indian captain himself signed off with the Player of the Series award in tow but not before proclaiming that he would open with Rohit Sharma at the T20 WC as he had done in that game.
Call it the quirk of scheduling in a pandemic-afflicted calendar, India played their next T20I with their first-choice set of players seven months later (not including the Sri Lanka series) when the dynamics of the side had significantly changed. KL Rahul had enjoyed a 626-run IPL season as a batting anchor for Punjab Kings and had to fit in as opener, meaning Kohli himself moved down to No.3 despite spending the entire IPL opening the batting. As it turned out, merely two T20Is after his proclamation in Ahmedabad, Kohli and Rohit were batting post the PowerPlay, in their least productive phase, against Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, two bowlers who've dismissed India's two batting bigwigs a total of nine times in all T20s.
While the IPL kept the players' T20 juices running, the batters were performing different roles for their franchises, alongside players with different complementary skills. On paper, India's batting line-up that made the semifinal of the 2016 World Cup may seem inferior but they did arrive for that tournament playing 11 straight T20Is together – versus Australia, Sri Lanka and at the Asia Cup.
Form and approach
Man for man, India perhaps had the quality to overcome even unfavourable match-ups, which both Pakistan and New Zealand threw at them. But Rohit, Kohli and Suryakumar's middling IPL form in the lead-up, and Rahul's different role, gave Pakistan's double-barrelled left-arm attack – with Shaheen Afridi and Imad Wasim – a chance to seize the duel. India lost three of the four by the sixth over, and never recovered.
Rohit and Kohli had to face the middle-overs music because India used Ishan Kishan as a counter to New Zealand's similar left-handed tag-team of Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner. That did not come off as desired either, and India once again had an underwhelming batting innings. The two powerplays against Pakistan and New Zealand (36/3 and 35/2) left India heading into the middle-phase without a solid springboard.
“The way we played the last three games [against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia], it's a game of margins – T20 cricket these days. Two overs of attacking cricket at the top is what we were missing in the first two games,” Kohli said.
PowerPlay impotency and team balance
It may seem unfair to subject the bowling unit to criticism when they had to bowl with a wet ball and defend sub-par totals of 151 and 110. But that they took only two wickets in those two first two games against Pakistan and New Zealand was not without precedence. There were red flags over their PowerPlay bowling even before the World Cup. In 15 games preceding the tournament, India have managed only 15 wickets, claiming more than one PowerPlay wicket in a game just once.
As a bowling unit, India were also hamstrung by Hardik Pandya starting this major tournament as a pure No.6 batter. That left India becoming a grossly imbalanced side where the batters didn't bowl and the bowlers didn't bat.
“I think it always helps when you have one or two players in the top order who can bowl,” Ravi Shastri said. “We've always had that in the past. Unfortunately, we don't have too many now. So that might be the way to go, to ensure that in the top six you have a couple of guys who can roll their arm over. Even if it's four overs between them, that will help.”
Fatigue and toss
Since cricket resumed post the pandemic-enforced lockdown in the second half of 2020, India have had 78 match days – only England (115), West Indies (89) and Pakistan (86) have had more. India's tally is even more staggering considering the number of multi-format cricketers that form the team's core. The likes of Kohli, Rohit, Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have featured almost throughout in this phase that involved extremely taxing tours of Australia and England. A phase that also had two gruelling seasons of IPL, which amounts to nearly five months of hard bubble life.
India's overseas highs, the crowning glory of the outgoing support staff, has come at a cost as the team has had very little turnaround time between assignments to cool their heels. Just a week after India flew from Manchester to UAE and went their separate ways to their respective franchises, the squeezed-in UAE leg of IPL was on. Only eight days separated the end of the IPL and their World Cup opener against Pakistan on October 24. India have played to unrelenting schedules even in the pre-pandemic times, but doing that amidst bio-bubbles and quarantines – hard and otherwise – has seemingly taken a heavy toll on the players.
“Six months in a bubble and then what we would've ideally liked was a bigger gap between the IPL and the World Cup. It's when the big games come… when the pressure hits you, you're not that switched on as you should be,” Shastri told the host broadcaster. Such was India's schedule and the make-up of their group that there was just no coming back from losing their two big games.
Also common in both the games was Kohli's ill-luck at the toss, which in prime-time evening fixtures in Dubai, turned out to have a massive influence on the direction it took. “It's a huge change between batting in the first innings and batting in the second innings. That shouldn't be the case in a very short format like this,” India's bowling coach Bharat Arun rued.