India crashed out of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup as England gave them a thrashing for the ages in the semi-finals at Adelaide on Thursday. The clinical manner in which England won not only made Team India seem clueless but could also go down in cricket history as one of the most one-sided defeats in a World Cup semi-final. It was a result that embarrassed experts, angered Indian fans and dashed all hopes of a dream final with Pakistan.
So, what exactly has gone wrong for the Men in Blue? Besides crucial mistakes on the day, there are long-term issues that have plagued Team India repeatedly in recent seasons. Overall, innovation is the key to success and it has been said that nothing changes, if nothing is changed! On Thursday afternoon in Adelaide, Indian World Cup dreams were crushed due to a lack of creativity and openness to new plans. While the cricketing world has made changes to their game and made it suitable for the T20 format, India has played majorly with the same line up over the past year. Their planning too left a lot to be desired as they played with nearly the same plans that pushed them out of the last World Cup.
Beyond the defeat, it’s the tame and timid approach on the day that is galling for Indian cricket lovers. The lack of intent and the nervy, almost terrified manner in which batters played in the powerplay after KL Rahul fell cheaply was quite shocking for a batting unit rated highly. The fearful batting underlined how India’s start has been shaky all through the World Cup. Though Rahul scored two half-centuries, he failed in 4 of the 6 matches.
Even Rohit Sharma seemed woefully out of touch. Though he is one of the greats among white-ball batsmen, Rohit hit just one 50-plus score in the World cup – and that too against the Netherlands. With both openers in poor form, India’s batting in the powerplays was among the worst in the tournament.
At the World cup, the batting line-up has been heavily dependent on Suryakumar Yadav and Virat Kohli but to expect the duo to pull the side out of the fire all the time is simply asking for the moon. As luck would have it, Surya suffered his first failure against England in the Semi-finals. Though Hardik Pandya had been nowhere near his best with the bat through most of the World Cup, he played a remarkable hand in the Semis that enabled Team India to post a fighting total.
The lack of penetration in the bowling attack also came to bite India in the clash with England. Ever since Jasprit Bumrah got injured, the debate over who should be drafted in as his replacement was discussed for weeks. While no other pacer had the kind of pace or penetration that Bumrah possesses, Mohammed Shami was chosen as his replacement. Many believe that on bouncy Australian pitches, Umran Malik should have been a part of the squad. He’s the only Indian pacer who consistently clocks over 150 kph and keeping him and other young pacers like Prasiddha Krishna out has cost India heavily.
As England brutally exposed the limitations of India’s bowling, the reluctance to play wrist-spinners is bound to be questioned. In its 6 matches in the T20 World Cup, Team India never played Yuzvendra Chahal, the only wrist-spinner in the squad. Instead, the two-finger spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel were persisted through the tournament. Historically, wrist spinners have been better wicket-taking options in T20 cricket and most international teams now play wrist spinners as it is easier to attack finger spinners. How wrist spinners can be far more effective was displayed by England, who chose to play two wrist spinners Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone in the crunch semi-final.
Significantly, for a T20 World Cup, Team India also had an over-dependence on ageing stars. While skipper Rohit Sharma is 35, the other batting heavyweight, Virat Kohli is also over 34. In the bowling unit, R Ashwin is now 37 and the two pacers Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are both 32 and India’s ‘finisher’ for the tournament, Dinesh Karthik, is over 37 !! Except King Kohli, none of these aged stars could perform at the level expected from them – and a dose of youthful exuberance now seems much needed to boost Team India.
Finally, as so often in the past, India failed to hold their nerve in crunch moments. Despite winning a last-ball thriller against Pakistan in their opening game, India didn’t show enough composure under pressure and lacked the courage that so often enables teams to grab the silverware in ICC events. Though India have been one of the best white-ball sides over the past decade, they have often floundered in a crunch, knock-out games. Ultimately, it seems, the pressure of expectations became a tad excessive for the Indian team. The star-studded Indian side has been without an ICC trophy since 2013. In the semi-final, The additional pressure led to some muddled thinking and an alarmingly timid approach which proved fatal against England.