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India Suffer Another Humbling T20 World Cup Exit – What Now?

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Sydney, Mumbai, London, Manchester, Dubai, and now Adelaide. The Indian cricket team’s list of embarrassing World Cup defeats grows longer every year, and the Men in Blue have now lost each of their last four semi-finals in ICC events. Not every exit from a T20 World Cup demands a root and branch review and a complete overhaul of the set-up and personnel, but the worrying nature of the defeat is something the BCCI, team India, and Rohit Sharma need to investigate in their tournament debrief.

India suffer another humbling T20 World Cup exit – What now?

India did not lose against England at the Adelaide Oval because their players felt the pressure of a grand stage or were overcome with emotion and anxiety in a knockout ICC event. They lost due to a reason most people tend not to pay too much attention towards – they were not good enough. When you compare the two teams on paper that took the field under the salmon skies at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday night, the difference is transparent.

England had a bowling line-up more suited to exploiting the conditions, with the speed of Jordan, the seam of Woakes and the wrist-spin of Rashid and Livingstone, and batters more capable of clearing the boundary ropes. England’s batting line-up extended to Chris Jordan at number ten, and Adil Rashid at number 11 has ten first-class centuries, while India sent out Ravichandran Ashwin to bat at number seven.

The manner of the result, however, was more concerning. Team India should not be losing by ten wickets in the semi-final of a T20 World Cup, irrespective of how well the opposition played. When asked about the reason for the defeat in the post-match presentation, Rohit Sharma addressed the bowling woes, with India unable to stick to their plans and playing into the hands of Jos Buttler and Alex Hales – two of the most deadly power-hitters in world cricket. 

 

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Sharma’s assessment of the bowlers was accurate, they were poor. Realistically, though, an attack consisting of two swing bowlers reliant on early movement, two finger-spinners, and Mohammad Shami doesn’t really stand a chance on bouncy, flat wickets in Australia.

India had to bat England out of the game to stand a chance of defending this total, and the performances of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were the more worrying symptom of this defeat. Following their shock Super 12 exit in the UAE in 2021, India preached a new gospel. The new ethos of Indian T20 batting was an aggressive approach. In the lead-up to the 2022 T20 World Cup, this method was successful. The openers went hard from ball one, maximised the powerplay, and seemed to be moving toward a more modernist approach to T20 cricket.

However, in their most pivotal game of the year, India reverted to type. Consolidate early on, accumulate through the middle before pushing all your chips in at the death. Neither KL nor Rohit was able to step foot on the accelerator in the powerplay, with India managing a run-rate of 6 runs an over in the first six overs at the 2022 T20 World Cup.

The conditions have been tough to bat in for openers in this World Cup, but Thursday’s pitch at Adelaide was arguably the best batting strip of the tournament. India should have aimed higher in the first innings with the knowledge that the pitch evens out under lights. Rohit’s laboured innings of 27 from 28 in the semi-final was ultimately the difference between India posting 168 and 190, a total which might have put pressure on the opposition.

The cautious approach upfront put undue pressure on the middle order. Despite Hardik Pandya playing a blinder and 68 runs coming off the final five overs, team India ended up with a below-par score of 168. That is the difference between the two sides. England go hard for 20 overs, India attempted to do that for only ten. India’s intention in the lead-up to this T20 World Cup has been to play a more English brand of cricket, and the performances in the bilateral series suggested that the revolution was successful. KL, Rohit, and even Virat Kohli were going hard from ball one, shedding their previous anchor instincts to raise their level of intent.

 

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However, the majority of those games were on flat batting surfaces in the subcontinent. The moment the Indian openers faced a little bit of adversity or pressure at the T20 World Cup, the old habits started creeping back in. Rohit and Rahul’s first instinct are not to attack or go after the bowling if the ball isn’t there to be hit. Asking Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul to become Alex Hales and Jos Buttler may be like asking a leopard to change its spots.

It is a valiant effort from two of Indian cricket’s most talented batters, and the credit line they both have created meant they deserved this opportunity to prove themselves. However, the lesson learned from this World Cup exit is that if team India want to redefine their approach in T20 cricket, they need to pick the players capable of performing the necessary roles.

The next T20 World Cup in 2024 is a little less than two years away, and if India want to avoid a similar humbling in the West Indies 20 months from now, the changes need to be made today to set up the team for success. The IPL generation cannot be ignored for too much longer, players like Prithvi Shaw, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, and Ravi Bishnoi must be unshackled sooner rather than later.

Every defeat is a lesson, every failure a potential stepping stone. The hope for the future of Indian cricket is that Adelaide 2022 can lead to the start of something new. Tough decisions await the powers at be.

 

[Featured Image Credit: ANI]

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