Too many equations at play as the two teams line up for the T20 World Cup’s 33rd game at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Let’s get done with these equations.
India’s only chances now hinge on them winning their next three matches, acquiring a good net run-rate, waiting to see if Afghanistan and New Zealand lose at least one of their respective league games and pray that their run-rate is better than the others who are tied on points.
Right now, purely on run rate, the world’s most popular and sought-after cricket team stands behind Namibia at -1.609. That’s the long and short of the equation. Now, let’s move on to cricket.
This team has landed at a tournament as important as the World Cup without a strategy. It does not matter what the coach, captain, other senior players in the team or members of the team management have to say. This is collective failure.
It does not matter either that they’ve been completely outplayed by Pakistan and New Zealand. Losing is not the worst part of sport, any sport. Inadequate planning, poor strategizing, questionable selection is.
Team India have faced the brunt on social media. Fans have crossed a line by getting personal. They should not. But purely on the cricketing front, questions being asked are mostly genuine.
What was India’s ‘opening’ gambit? In the final T20 game of the series versus England at Ahmedabad, here’s what captain Virat Kohli said: “I’m going to open in the IPL as well. I have batted in different positions in the past. But I feel we have a solid middle-order. So, I would definitely like to partner Rohit at the top going into the T20 World Cup”.
Let’s dissect this. He’s not opening anymore, which is probably understandable because KL Rahul has been exceptional in the IPL and Rohit Sharma has been a tried & trusted hand. Then, how did Ishan Kishan – a cricketer who wasn’t part of the first match against Pakistan – open? Apropos of the captain’s view, logic hasn’t really cut through.
In the same statement, Kohli talks about having batted at different positions in the past. Of his 86 T20 innings overall, eight times he’s opened, 58 times he’s batted at No. 3 and 17 times at No. 4. He averages his best – 58.20 – at No. 3. But it was his call to open, and everyone understood. It made sense. The team needed an innings-builder. And then he switches to No. 4.
Why’s the builder of an innings walking in when the team is at 2-35 and it’s already the end of the Powerplay. Kohli, it must be said, is not a batting ‘mad-hatter’. Pant, Kishan and Pandya are. Kohli’s T20 strokeplay is still all finesse and class. Coming in to play at No.4 doesn’t really make sense.
T20 needs ‘mad-hatters’ as much as it needs Kohli but they must all follow the ‘horses for courses’ strategy. India haven’t. Innovations look good when they work. When they don’t, they begin to look like blunders.
The fact is, India don’t know what their top-five must look like and in that, they’ve lost another opportunity already. They can still redeem themselves from here and fans will hope they do. But the ‘bigger picture’ or lack of one has greater redemption to be sought going forward.
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