Why India Was Knocked Out Of T20 World Cup?
When New Zealand played Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup on November 7, crores of Indians were wishing and praying for an upset Afghan win. The reason was simple. That would have meant that India had a slim statistical chance of making it to the semi-finals.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. A clinical performance by Kane Williamson and his boys ensured an Indian exit, the first time an Indian team had exited before the semi-finals in an ICC event since the WT20, 2012 in Sri Lanka. NZ restricted the Afghans to 124/8 and then comfortably scored the requisite runs, losing just two wickets, to join England, Australia, and Pakistan in the last four.
How did India come to this position? Despite being in a relatively easier group, with only Pakistan and New Zealand as serious competitors and Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland making up the rest of the group. In contrast, the other group had England, Australia, defending champions West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Yet India lost to both Pakistan and New Zealand, and winning over other “minnow” teams was not enough.
Since 2013, India has not won an ICC trophy, and while the problems were so far “limited” to losing at the knockout stage, this time it was worse, with the team not qualifying for the semi-final stage, a first in nine years.
Let us decipher the possible reasons for India’s loss.
Since cricket is a team event with 11 players, I have tried to find 11 reasons for India’s disastrous tournament.
- Virat Kohli announcing just “before” the World Cup that this was his last tournament as T20 captain was sudden and it was certainly untimely. Either it should have been after the tournament was over or he should have handed over the mantle to someone before the tournament. It made no sense going in for not just a major tournament, but a World Cup with what can be described as a lame-duck captain. I do not think there has been any parallel like this in the history of the game. If so, I would love to be corrected/educated.
- There was no clarity over Kohli’s role as a batsman. There was also confusion over the role of Ishan Kishan and Surya Kumar Yadav. It was not clear whether Kohli would open or come in at Number 3 or 4. Similarly, it was not clear as to what role Ishan will play and whether he will be in the playing 11 or not. After the first match, Virat did a Dhoni and asked a query to a questioning reporter, “Will you drop Rohit Sharma?” The very next match, Ishan was brought in, and then straightaway promoted and sent in — ahead of Rohit Sharma. So also, the role of SKY was not clear. Sadly, his back spasms acted up too, which did not help the team’s interest.
- Overconfidence and underestimating other teams. There was too much talk on “India has never lost to Pakistan in World Cup”. The “mouka mouka” advertisement was terrible, and tried too hard to be funny. We also should have taken into account that New Zealand has been our bogey team, especially in ICC Trophies. My personal view is that the team would not have underestimated Pakistan or New Zealand, but all this talk must have seeped in somehow and affected the team’s performance.
- Confusion over Ravi Shastri’s and Virat’s future (and legacy as well) as coach and captain did not help. Instead of focusing on the current task, there was too much discussion on whether this was the best team ever, whether this was the most aggressive Indian team ever, how Shastri and Virat had contributed to aggression and carefully curated the team, how Dravid or whoever the next coach is will have a tough task to replicate Shastri’s performance, how Virat was on the way to being the best captain of all time, how his lack of IPL titles as captain did not matter, etc etc. The only discussion required was focusing on the current tournament and nothing else.
- Bringing in a mentor added to the confusion. Suddenly, India’s T20 and ODI World Cup winning captain and multiple IPL winning captain MS Dhoni was brought in as mentor. We already had Ravi Shastri, who has a reputation of a shrewd strategist. We had Virat Kohli as the captain. We had Shastri’s choices of batting, bowling and fielding coach and we had Rohit Sharma as part of the think tank. While certainly there is a terrific relationship between Shastri, Virat and Dhoni, there really was no need of yet another strategist, and results show it did not help.
- Faulty final 11 selection and whimsical stubbornness has been seen for quite some time now. Examples are who will be number 4 in 2019 World Cup, role of Hardik Pandya, what will be Ashwin’s role and so on. Fascination for a mystery spinner did not help. Chahal was not there though it seemed that he was being groomed for World Cup. Just like Rayudu was groomed for two years but did not play the 2019 ODI World Cup, the same thing seemed to have happened with Chahal in the T20 World Cup.
- The team looked jaded after being on the move and in bubble for six months. The split-up IPL did not help. Star bowler Jasprit Bumrah said, “You need a break, you miss your family, you try a lot, but bubble fatigue sets in”. Virat too has often said that a packed schedule in pandemic time will affect performances. Sadly, the performances were affected in the worst time possible — in a World Cup.
- T20 is a young man’s game and we need younger players like Paddikkal and Gaikwad. To take an example, let us consider Rohit Sharma’s recent performances in international T20’s. He has scored 160 runs in his last 10 innings and against top teams like Australia, Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka and SA, his average is 29.5. Virat has been a terrific T20 player as well but maybe it is now time for them to shift to longer formats and pack the team with youngsters.
- Our struggle against spin continues. This was best seen in the match against New Zealand when the two Kiwi spinners conceded 32 runs in 8 overs. This is mystifying and has been seen for quite some time now. Ravi Shastri was himself a spinner and dour batsman, but somehow he has not succeeded in this particular aspect. Dravid was one of the best players against spin and hopefully he can translate some of the spin facing technique to the players.
- Lack of six-hitters and poor start cost India dearly. We hit six sixes in the first two matches versus Pakistan and New Zealand. Contrast that with other teams. Shoaib Malik in one match hit six sixes in an 18 ball innings. Asaf Ali hit four sixes in an over. Who can forget Braithwaite hitting four sixes in a row off Ben Stokes to win the World Cup for West Indies. India certainly made the mistake of not getting off to a good start. 36/3 versus Pakistan and 35/2 versus New Zealand meant that it was going to be tough to put up a fighting score and that is exactly what happened. Sunil Gavaskar pointed out that in the last few ICC tournaments, India hasn’t taken advantage of the power play and whenever India has come across team with good bowlers, India cannot score. The same thing happened in this tournament as well — with disastrous consequences.
- IPL being so-called best league in the world has nothing to do with succeeding in international T20. Rahul had a 42 ball 98 against CSK, and Ishan Kishan had a 32 ball 84 against SRH. However, repeating the same against a quality Pakistani and Kiwi attack was never going to be the same.
Let us see what our top cricketers have opined about India’s disappointing performance in this T20 World Cup.
“Not getting easy singles forced them to play big shots“. — SRT
“Very disappointing. Body language wasn’t great, poor shot selection, time for some serious introspection“. — Sehwag.
“It’s happening for long. India don’t have the mental strength“. — Gautam Gambhir.
“In this format, if you don’t get in front early, it becomes difficult“. — Madan Lal.
What does Virat Kohli himself has to say? “We need to be brutal here. I don’t think we were brave enough with the bat or the ball. Didn’t have much to defend but we were not brave enough when we walked out to field“. Virat also said that “there is only one way to play T20 cricket. You have to be optimistic, you have to be positive, and you have to take calculated risks. That’s what this format is all about”.
Did India do that? No.
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we did not qualify for the semi-finals with other results going our way. We have to take a look at ourselves. It is a time for introspection.
What about Virat Kohli’s future, now that he has decided to quit T20 captaincy, both from international T20 and IPL/RCB.
I personally believe that he is an excellent T20 player but now to prolong his career for the Indian team in ODI and Tests, I would like him to give up at least international T20 cricket. In ODI, he is an all-time great and I hope he continues as skipper as well till the 2023 World Cup. As regards Tests, his passion to win, and recognition of the truism that to win one needs 20 wickets has helped the team immensely. As a batsman, he is currently far away from his high standards, and he needs to come back to form very quickly. I am certain he is too good a batsman not to do so.
India’s next tour is a home series with New Zealand as visitors and then we visit South Africa, followed by West Indies visiting us. The tour to South Africa will be tough, and we will need both Virat the captain, and Virat the batsman to be in form and in a happy space. Hopefully, Virat will use the NZ home series to get back to peak form.
Coming back to T20 and ODI, we now have a new coach in Rahul Dravid — for all formats. We will have a new T20 captain as well. We will have another T20 World Cup in 2022 and the ODI World Cup in 2023. It is time to have a brand new T20 team that will play fearless cricket. It is also time to have a fresh look at our ODI team and plan ahead. We have the talent, and we have the potential. It is just a question of putting it all together. Let us do it.