India’s early exit from the Asia Cup has exposed a string of chinks in their armoury. In the ‘Super Four’ round of the tournament, India lost to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in consecutive matches to crash out of the tournament. The ‘Men In Blue’ were the favourites to win the tournament as India are one of the strongest T20 units in the world but failure to come good in big matches became their undoing.
The New Indian lists five issues they must urgently take stock of and fix before the T20 World Cup to stand a chance to win the coveted trophy:
1) Poor team selection: For a couple of years, there has been a lot of talk about India grappling with the ‘problem of plenty’. There is a vast pool of talented cricketers jostling with each other for every spot in the team. While some players pick themselves automatically in the playing XI, there is intense competition for some positions. This, ideally, should have been very good for any team but India seem to have made a vice out of a virtue.
In the match against Sri Lanka, India left out Ravi Bishnoi from the playing XI despite the fact that he had bowled adroitly in the last match against Pakistan. Captain Rohit Sharma made an atrocious blunder by picking Deepak Hooda ahead of Dinesh Karthik, who has proven himself to be a reliable finisher. Hooda, who was picked as an all-rounder, was not made to bowl a single over and also came a cropper as a batter.
Taking just three pacers for the Asia Cup when the tournament is being held in the subcontinent was also an unwise decision.
These are just three of the plenty examples of extremely poor team selection. India will have to be thoroughly prudent about picking the best playing XI after taking various factors into account: such as current form, opposition, pitch etc.
2) Recasting of Top 3 in batting line-up: One of the peccadilloes for India has been their inability to score briskly in the Powerplay. This was one of the principal reasons why India bowed out of the last World T20. India’s top 3 – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli – are undeniably fine batsmen but together, they aren’t fit to be batting in the first three positions.
India need a dashing power-hitter in their top 3 who can take on the bowlers from the word go and knock off quick runs. Rahul did not acquit himself with distinction in the Asia Cup and should not be in the T20I squad. Kohli roared back to form and can open the innings with Rohit. Suryakumar Yadav has been in sizzling form and must be India’s No.3 batter in the T20Is.
3) Brittle lower middle-order: While India’s middle-order is splendidly sturdy with the presence of Suryakumar, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik, their lower middle-order, leaves a lot to be desired. In the recent T20I series, this problem seemed even more pronounced due to the absence of Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, who usually bat at No.7 or 8.
India needs a buccaneering all-rounder in their lower middle-order who, if required, can tonk a few smashing shots. Since Ravindra Jadeja is likely to be ruled out of the T20 World Cup, either Shardul or Chahar must be in the playing XI. Not only are they fine seamers, but also resourceful lower middle-order batters.
4) Death-overs bowling: With Jasprit Bumrah unavailable, India’s bowling in death-overs has looked quite substandard in the recent matches, especially against stronger teams. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar is supremely effective with the new-ball, his bowling in death overs has taken a beating. In the matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, he was plundered for 19 and 14 runs respectively in the 19th over which scuppered India’s prospects.
Arshdeep Singh is a fine bowler, but inexperienced. Yuzvendra Chahal rarely bowls in the last 4-5 overs. Bumrah’s return will give a fillip to India’s death-overs bowling but India must find another bowler who can deliver the goods. The team management can use the T20I series against Australia and South Africa, which will take place before the T20 World Cup, to plug these loopholes.
5) Big-tournament temperament: In the last six years, India have done exceedingly well in the white-ball cricket, both at home and overseas. Their record in bilateral T20I and ODI series is mighty impressive against all teams. But during this phase, they haven’t won a single ICC tournament despite having a clutch of world-class players at their disposal.
India lost to West Indies in the semi-final of the World T20 in 2016 and to Pakistan in the final of Champions Trophy in 2017. In the 50-over World Cup editions in 2015 and 2019, India came up short against Australia and New Zealand respectively in the semi-finals. Last year, India crashed out of the World T20 in the league round.
Not winning any major ICC tournament is certainly a blemish India would like to wipe away. But for that, they must prepare themselves more assiduously and efficiently for the big matches. The youngsters, in particular, must be groomed to tackle pressure situations with sangfroid in the big matches.