This write-up by me first appeared in the Indian Express and then on Yahoo! India
The sudden and dramatic exit of Team India from the race for the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty- 20 Cup 2009 has shocked onlookers and confounded experts. Being the joint favourites along with South Africa for winning the Cup, the defending champions displayed a lack of innovation as also the absence of sheer desperation that resulted in their amazing success in South Africa in 2007 when they lifted the trophy as rank outsiders.
The ten main reasons that led to their shocking elimination are-
1. Complacency– There seemed to be an air of ‘nothing-can-go-wrong’ in the team’s approach. They appeared to feel all along that the Cup was rightfully theirs and that no other team had the fire power to gun them down. That they lost to both the West Indies and England, two of the less formidable teams in the draw, indicated a sense of false superiority which did not result in runs on the board or wickets in the bag.
2. Sehwag’s unavailability– Despite a star-studded line-up, India had no other batsman who could scare the wits out of the opposition bowlers quite like Virender Sehwag does. Yuvraj Singh is India’s batting hero in this version of the game, but the task proved too much even for him, in the absence of the Sultan of Multan, whose shoulder injury cost India dear.
3. Wrong team selection– India bungled by playing an extra bowler in a batsman oriented format of the game. As a result, there was not enough ammunition in the late middle order to test the opposition seriously enough. Dinesh Karthik should have played instead of Ravinder Jadeja in the match against England. Yusuf Pathan and Rohit Sharma could have bowled spin along with Yuvraj Singh to fill the breach. Ishant Sharma could have been dropped in favour of Praveen Kumar whose swing bowling was suited to English conditions. RP Singh should have played all the matches, given that he was the highest wicket taker in the IPL, and the in-form bowler in the team!
4. Fielding lapses– In the match against the West Indies especially and also on some other occasions, misfielding hurt India badly. Two clear boundaries went through the legs of the fielders against the Windies, and could have made the difference in a close match. More over, India’s field placing was such that the slower fielders in the team found the ball coming towards them on more occasions than did the best fielders. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan were cases in point!
5. Easy early matches- A factor that Team India could not do anything about, given their top-seeded billing! They had Bangladesh and Ireland for company in their group and found them to be easy meat. But the lack of serious opposition at that stage meant that they had to suddenly up the ante against better teams in the super-league, which they could not manage!
6. Jadeja’s dilemma- By pushing green-horn Ravinder Jadeja up the order the team management exposed him to some accurate and hostile bowling from the England pacers in the crucial tie at Lords. Jadeja is a talented player and had claimed two key wickets with his left-arm spin earlier in the match but he appeared to be overawed by the occasion and could not really handle the pressure. In a match that India lost by just 3 runs, Jadeja’s 22 off 30 balls was surely a match-losing effort.
7. Short-pitched challenge- The manner in which the West Indian fast bowlers, followed by their English counterparts, tested India’s top order with short-pitched bowling was revelatory. Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina just could not get going and were tied down and then forced to find ungainly ways of hitting out or getting out while facing the bouncy stuff. India’s top order has seldom looked as ruffled as it did in this tournament. Perhaps a realization that the conditions in England are such that they require pure cricketing shots in the first few overs may have done the trick.
8. Dhoni was out of sorts- Captain cool, MS Dhoni kept wickets reasonably well, and marshaled his forces to the best of his ability, but his batting was a let down. Even in the match against England when he and Pathan almost chased down the target, he could not really get the big shots going. His bat seemed to have lost its potency, for his shots simply lacked the explosiveness that they are known for.
9. Media trouble- Another factor was surely the off-the-field distraction especially the manner in which the Sehwag issue was dealt with. The media flayed the present Captain’s attitude for the first time ever and the foolhardy attempt at displaying a sense of camaraderie by presenting the whole team at a Press conference was most bizarre.
10. Too much cricket- The current Indian team plays all around the year and big matches obviously lose their aura for the players when so much cricket is played. This was the World Cup after all, but from the look of them, Team India could well have been playing any other international series. Gautam Gambhir, who has been the most prolific scorer in world cricket in the past one year, looked totally jaded, and exemplified the mal-effects of excessive international cricket.
Fans of the Indian team are distraught and shocked at their early exit from the ICC World Twenty 20. Let’s see if the team can re-group from here and win back our admiration in the coming months.