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World T20 2021: Poor team selection, not fatigue, proved to be India's ultimate bane

Giving due credit to Pakistan and New Zealand for their performances against Kohli and Co, focus should equally be put on some of the selection calls made before and during the tournament

Published: 10th November 2021 10:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th November 2021 10:17 PM   |  A+A-

India's captain Virat Kohli reacts to a boundary hit by New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and India. (Photo | AP)

Online Desk

The eight-year wait for Indian fans to see their team on the victory podium in an ICC event continues with a humiliating first-round exit from the 2021 World T20.

The team management gave reasons like bio-bubble fatigue, lack of proper recovery period between the IPL and World Cup, and tosses going against them.

Like the heartbreaks of the 2019 World Cup semis and 2021 World Test Championship final, Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli's leadership failed to end (in their final tournament as coach and captain -- the latter in the limited overs' formats) India's tale of suffering at ICC events and it was the old disease of misreading the conditions that hurt them again. 

India captain Virat Kohli (Photo | AP)

Giving due credit to the solid displays from Pakistan and New Zealand against Kohli's men in the Super 12 round, the focus should equally be put on some of the selection calls made before and during the tournament.

Let's discuss a few of them here.

The Rohit-Rahul breakup which cost India dearly against the Kiwis

The duo, till the World Cup in the UAE, had a magnificent association in T20 cricket as openers --1019 runs in 18 innings, with five fifty and three century partnerships between them. 

As Dhawan's bat went silent during the T20s against England and Sri Lanka earlier this year, Rahul's 1296 runs in the last 27 IPL matches meant that the Karnataka batter was primed for the job of partnering Rohit at the World Cup.

Indian openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. (Photo | AP)

Despite storming past England and Australia in the warm-ups, the law of averages soon caught up with both the batters as they succumbed to a brilliant Shaheen Afridi spell, resulting a ten wicket maiden T20 World Cup victory for Pakistan against their arch rivals.

The team management's reaction to the loss was bringing Ishan Kishan as an opener against New Zealand, to counter Trent Boult's inswingers (and also going by the youngster's 32-ball 56 on debut against England earlier this year, where he played as an opener), while demoting Rohit to number three in a surprising move. 

Ishan scored only four runs in eight deliveries before being caught at deep square leg while attempting a pick-up shot against Boult. Rohit could hit only a six and a boundary during his brief 14-run stay. The result was an eight wicket loss for Kohli and co.

India's Rohit Sharma hits a boundary during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Scotland in Dubai. (Photo | AP)

Against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia, Rohit and Rahul registered opening partnerships of 140, 70 and 86 runs and India went on to register the tournament's highest score (210-2 against the Afghans). But it was already too late as despite having a superior run rate, clinical shows from New Zealand and Pakistan ensured a bitter third-place finish for Kohli and Co in Group B.

The Hardik Pandya question which remained unanswered

The fast bowling all-rounder, who suffered a back injury in 2020, bowled some 17 overs in T20s against England at home. After that, when the IPL 2021 arrived, he didn't deliver a single over for Mumbai Indians. 

While announcing the World Cup squad, selection panel chief Chetan Sharma said that the Baroda cricketer is fit and will roll his arms over if required.

Talking about Pandya's importance for Team India, his 42 wickets in 54 T20s speak louder than the 553 runs he scored with the bat so far.

India's Hardik Pandya bats during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi. (Photo | AP)

His variations have proved to be a valuable asset for Team India since 2016, as the country lacked a fast bowling all-rounder since legendary Kapil Dev's retirement.

While there was a communication breakdown between Mumbai Indians and the BCCI over Pandya's fitness, he played as a specialist batsman against Pakistan and managed only 11 runs in eight deliveries, before getting hit on his shoulder. 

He bowled two overs each against New Zealand and Afghanistan, but ended up conceding 40 runs and didn't even touch the 133 kmph mark. For all his reputation of effortlessly bowling over 140 kmph, Pandya looked a spent force, lacking swing and accuracy.

Neglect towards Ashwin hurts India big time

The off-spinner, who has 58 scalps in 49 matches at an economy of 6.86, is also India's most successful bowler in T20 World Cups (20 wickets in the last three editions). His inclusion in the white-ball squad after four years was a clear message from the selectors that experience matters in big ICC events.

In his two-over spell against the Aussies in the warm-up, Ashwin dismissed David Warner and Mitchell Marsh cheaply. 

Leading into the tournament, captain Kohli said about the off-spinner, “Ravichandran Ashwin has faith in his skills and we realised that the way he was bowling, his variations and his control over pace is something that we have got a lot of. A guy who has played so many internationals, now that his confidence is at his best, we need such players here. So, I think Ashwin can totally revive his white ball skills.”

India's Ravichandran Ashwin, centre, and teammates celebrate the dismissal of Namibia's Zane Green during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match. (Photo | AP)

However, when the Super 12 round arrived, Ashwin was seen sitting in the dugout, like the Test series in England a couple of months earlier. Varun Chakravarthy was preferred over him and it hardly paid any dividends as the 'mystery spinner' found the job of bowling with a dew-soaked ball too tough against Pakistan and New Zealand.

Ashwin played the last three games against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia and returned with figures of 2-14, 1-29 and 3-20, but it was too late as the selection goof-up in the first two matches destroyed Team India's semifinal chances.

Chahal's non-inclusion, another tactical blunder

Just like an out-of-shape Hardik Pandya getting into the final 15, leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal's exclusion proved to be another selection howler.

Despite taking 39 wickets in his last 30 IPL matches (the majority of which were played in the UAE), making crucial breakthroughs both in powerplays and death overs, the inexperienced Rahul Chahar was preferred over him as the selectors wanted a spinner who can generate turn while bowling fast off the pitch.

Indian spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (Photo | AP)

Whereas in reality, the key to success for spinners in the UAE is bowling slow and deceiving the batters with flight. While legspinners like Ish Sodhi, Rashid Khan, Adil Rashid, Wanindu Hasaranga, Adam Zampa and Mujeeb Ur Rahman dominated the tournament, Chahal's absence from the event took the sting out of India's bowling charge.

Jaded Bhuvi in playing XI, while Deepak Chahar kept as 'reserve'

Apart from Kohli and Co misreading the UAE tracks despite playing two back-to-back IPLs in these conditions, the fast bowling department too looked listless.

It all started with Bhuvaneswar Kumar's fitness.

In December 2019, he suffered a groin injury, followed by another one on his thigh muscle during the 2020 IPL. After completing rehab, he played eight T20s and took nine wickets. However, the return of the thigh strain during IPL 2021 severely impacted his performance.

India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar. (Photo | AP)

The Purple Cap holder of the 2016 edition could manage only six wickets in eleven games and Sunrisers Hyderabad missed the play-off spot.

The Bhuvi heading for the World Cup was jaded and restrained by his sore legs.

On the other hand, Deepak Chahar, who has been a handy swing bowler and a yorker specialist, was kept on the reserves' list, despite Bhuvi's fitness struggles.  

Indian bowler Deepak Chahar (Photo | AP)

In IPL 2021, Chahar took 14 wickets in 15 matches (the bulk of which came in powerplays) and guided CSK to its fifth title win. Still, he was overlooked, while Bhuvi conceded 25 runs in three overs against Pakistan sans a breakthrough. Against the Kiwis, India tried Shardul Thakur whose 'golden arm' gave away 17 runs in 1.3 overs in India's eight-wicket loss. 



Comments(1)

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  • Girish

    Only someone who never played competitive sports will brush aside fatigue factor
    6 months ago reply
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