T20 World Cup 2024: Deja vu or date with destiny?

India will be keen not to repeat mistakes they did in 2022 semifinals vs England
Indian captain Rohit Sharma and Coach Rahul Dravid.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma and Coach Rahul Dravid.File photo

CHENNAI: When Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler walk out for the toss at Providence Stadium, Guyana, it all might feel like a deja vu. After all, the same two captains went up against each other in the semifinal of the previous edition of the T20 World Cup. England cruised past India and went on to win the title in 2022.

Two years have gone by and during this period, a lot has changed but at the same time, not much has changed, especially for India. Their personnel have largely remained constant. Same captain in Rohit, same keeper in Rishabh Pant. Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya were there and so were Axar Patel and Arshdeep Singh. While Shivam Dube had been added to the team, the differential point is the return of Jasprit Bumrah. The numbers are out there to see and there is no adjective, analogy or metaphor that can do justice to how much Bumrah elevates India's bowling attack on the field.

That, however, is just on the bowling front. Even in 2022, India did not lose to England because of the bowling. It was the batting that let them down. On a good Adelaide batting surface, Indian top-order — Rohit, KL Rahul and Kohli — went into a shell. It's no secret that it was a flawed batting structure and method, yet they persisted with it. The result, England restricted India to a sub-par total and chased it with ten wickets in hand.

Paul Collingwood, who was among the coaching staff of the England team, explains how the 2022 champions broke it down, "The previous plan was to attack India aggressively from the start. However, a team like India can't be surprised by that tactic. In 2022, when India batted first, we knew we could restrict them. Back then, India played conservatively, especially in the first 10 overs, and then tried to catch up later," the 2010 T20 WC-winning captain said on Star Sports Press room.

However, "back then" is the imperative word from what Collingwood said. India have changed, and done so drastically. They have hit 14 sixes in the powerplay this World Cup — 2.3 maximums per game in the first six overs. Only Australia have more (2.7) but they played an extra game. Off the 14, eight of them have come from the bat of captain Rohit, who has been setting the tone up front. Even Kohli, despite the poor form, has hit a couple himself. The ones who follow too have abided by it. Which is why, despite the brief slow down, India posted a strong total against Australia.

"India's approach has changed," said Collingwood. "They understand that this (old) strategy won't win WCs. They need to take risks, be brave, and express themselves freely. This new mentality might be criticised if it fails, but to win World Cups, you need to be ahead of the curve and adapt to what other teams are doing globally. England has been doing this for years. India has just caught up in the recent past. This makes them a much more dangerous opponent. Batting first, they could potentially score a total far beyond England's reach. That's the exciting thing about this clash," he added.

In the larger scheme of things, the two teams are chasing two different things. India are in a desperate quest for an ICC trophy that has eluded them for more than a decade. As for England, it is about establishing their white-ball dominance with three ICC titles across formats in the last five years. Only one will have a chance to achieve it.

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The New Indian Express