Mumbai: He ended his T20 captaincy on a winning note but for Virat Kohli, it was hardly the grand finale that he would have imagined for himself and his powerful team. India outclassed Namibia by 9 wickets but with qualification for semi-finals out of the question, it was a lack-lustre if not entirely meaningless exercise.
Despite the game against Namibia being a dead rubber, Virat and the Indian think tank still picked their strongest side – a testament to their professionalism and attitude. Team India showed the commitment of a high order, though some experts felt that bench strength could have been given a chance especially when some players have been complaining of fatigue and lack of rest. India is slated to play its next T20 match in just 8 days against New Zealand in Jaipur.
At the very end of his T20 captaincy, Virat finally turned lucky with tosses. After ruing the loss of the toss that cost India its first 2 matches, Kohli again won the toss and chose to bowl first. Namibia wasn’t expected to be any threat but Bumrah was at his booming best. He picked up 2 wickets for just 19 runs in his spell and made sure there would be no miracle Monday for Namibia. While Shami was rather off-colour, the Indian test spinners, Jadeja and Ashwin, completely choked the Namibian batsmen and grabbed 6 wickets among themselves for 36 runs in 8 overs.
Ashwin once again underlined his classy spin bowling, full of guile and subtle changes of pace. His performance was another reminder of what India had missed in its two crucial encounters with Pakistan and New Zealand. The Men in Blue were also playing a wrist spinner in Rahul Chahar who was given an opportunity in place of Varun Chakravarthy. Sadly, his spell was hardly impressive as he gave away 30 runs in his 4 overs without taking a wicket. But with regular wickets, India kept pegging Namibia back and made sure they do not have to chase a big total. Namibia finally meandered to a meagre total of 132.
Chasing a modest target, Rohit made a mockery of the inexperienced Namibian bowlers after he survived a dropped catch at the start of the innings. Hitman, all set to take over the reins of T20 captaincy from Virat, showed his class in a brisk, breezy 50. After his dismissal in the 10th over, KL Rahul took over and made sure the game was finished in the next 5 overs. His start was a bit more sedate in comparison to Rohit but ended up with a similar strike rate. Kohli sent Surya Kumar ahead of him to give some valuable match practice ahead of upcoming clashes with New Zealand. Surya stayed not out on 25 of 19 balls, showing his 360-degree game in the brief passage.
As expected, Team India scored an easy win in their last encounter. But questions will continue to haunt the team about its failure in the crucial first two games. Indian team at the moment is one of the very best we have had, the skill level and talent is better than most of the top teams. Yet, since the 2013 Champions Trophy, India has not been able to bring any ICC trophy back home. This remains a big blemish on the Kohli-Shastri era, even when the team has done incredibly well to win in various parts of the world.
As Team India crashes out of another World Cup, many questions will be asked about this uninspiring campaign. What exactly has gone wrong? Was team selection the prime reason or had bio bubble strains spoilt the party? Did MS Dhoni’s presence make things difficult for the Shastri-Kohli combo? Was defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan too huge a psychological blow for Team India to handle? Or was Virat Kohli plain unlucky?
Frankly, there are too many questions but too few answers. However, the muddled team selection and tactics have been tough to comprehend on many occasions. Whether it was the selection of the playing XI in the ODI World Cup of 2019 or here, the team paid heavily for the decisions taken by the think tank of Kohli and Shastri.
Moreover, India needs to take a leaf out of English cricket and use a ‘horses for courses’ approach that would, for instance, have ensured playing an Ashwin from the 1st game itself on the low, slow tracks of this tournament. There is also a need for better use of bench strength where the likes of Mohammad Siraj and Avesh Khan may have been better choices than Bhuvi and Shardul in this tournament. Even scheduling needs to be handled far better by the BCCI as more careful preparation is needed for showpiece events like World Cups.
Now, it’s time for Rahul Dravid to begin his era once more. Most of the young guns in the team have played under his watchful eye at junior or India A levels. This will be an enormous benefit for players to build a rapport and camaraderie with Dravid. If Rohit can build a good partnership with him and bring in his IPL captaincy successful experiences, ‘Achche Din’ may soon arrive after the doom and gloom of the T20 World Cup campaign. A billion Indian fans will be cheering for Hitman to become Superman as Captain of Team India!