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India’s Failed T20 World Cup Campaign – Bad luck or Arrogance?

Indian team celebrate the dismissal of Scotland's captain Kyle Coetze during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between India and Scotland, at Dubai International Cricket Ground in Dubai
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For the first time since 2012, India leaves an ICC event without qualifying for the semi-finals. The Men in Blue were billed as the tournament favourites, but two heavy losses against Pakistan and New Zealand saw India’s tournament stall before it even got started. 

In the end, it was an imperfect storm of bad luck and a muddled philosophy that cost Virat Kohli and co in this World Cup, so here are some of the major factors that went against the Men in Blue in the UAE.



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Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, the toss went against India. In a format decided by small margins and in a group containing Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland with even finer margins, India and Kohli lost the only two tosses that matter. 

Pakistan and New Zealand put India in to bat, picked up wickets early on, choked the runs through the middle, and then the dew and the pitch easing out made batting much easier in the run-chase.

The toss is undoubtedly a factor, but India knew that heading into the tournament, and if a team isn’t operating under its highest potential, these margins tend to make a difference.



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Five months before the T20 World Cup, India lost the toss against England in the series decider in Ahmedabad, batted first and put up 224 in the first innings with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma opening the innings. They went on to win that game comfortably against a phenomenal T20I side, and the philosophy seemed to be that the two best players – and slowest starters – would open the innings, with dynamic high-intent batters packed through the middle order.

One IPL and 626 runs later, those plans had changed with KL Rahul now opening the innings. Suryakumar Yadav’s injury also prompted India to open with Ishan Kishan instead, with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli moving into the middle order – where they are least effective.

The philosophy that worked so well in March was hastily abandoned due to form, and like the English football team in the mid-2000s that tried to squeeze Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes into the same midfield, India simply looked to fit all the stars in one team, and hope it works out.

As seen against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia, the Indian batters can tonk it from ball one and play more aggressively, but the muddled philosophy and the lack of clarity in terms of batting roles led to their downfall in the games that mattered most.



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One important caveat to this tournament is that barring KL Rahul, none of these players had particularly strong IPL’s in the UAE. Virat Kohli had a strike rate of 119 in the tournament, while the Mumbai Indians quartet – Rohit, Kishan, SKY and Hardik – largely struggled up until the final game against a weakened SRH.

Perhaps this was an unavoidable eventuality due to the non-stop cricket and bubble fatigue these players have endured, or maybe it is just an unfortunate coincidence wherein none of the players entered the tournament with confidence.



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It is difficult to blame the bowling for the first two losses. Against Pakistan, India started well before the dew scuppered the plans, and versus the Kiwis, the bowlers didn’t even have a prayer. However, everyone not named Jasprit Bumrah couldn’t even pick up a wicket in those two opening matches. The PowerPlay bowling has been a problem for a while for the Men in Blue, with India picking up only 15 wickets in the first six overs in the past 15 T20I’s.

On reflection, the selection of the bowlers in the squad was far from ideal. Bilateral series wins that were largely down to India’s batting prowess papered over the cracks in the bowling, and India might have been better off had they moved away from the experience of Bhuvi and Shami.

It’s tricky to make an argument for Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan’s selection given the small sample size of their success in the IPL, but Mohammed Siraj’s emergence for RCB in recent years makes for a more interesting case. Although he isn’t a wicket-taker, Siraj bowled with an economy of 6.7 in the most recent IPL. The pacer could offer something more in the powerplay and middle overs in terms of pace and ability to bowl that hard length than a Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Shami, who have struggled in India blue in recent years.

And that is that, two losses, a few bad overs, and you are out. This isn’t a bad team or a bad set of players. India stuttered at the starting blocks, and it cost them the tournament. One ICC event defeat won’t define this team’s legacy, but the hope for Indian fans is that the lessons learned from this failure can be used to prevent similar eventualities in the future.

Maybe in time, this World Cup – like for England in 2015 – could be seen as a necessary humbling. One which allows this Indian team to swallow its pride, reset the clocks and rise from the ashes to fulfil its potential in the years to come.


[Featured Image Credit: ANI]