Crash! Bang! Thud!
I’ve been brought down to the ground. Two days ago I had gloated over Australia’s exit from the World Twenty20 and their apparant inability to adjust to the shortest format of the game. Today, here I am, confronting the reality that the team that I support, the World Champions, haven’t been doing a great job in Twenty20 cricket either. To borrow a phrase from our dear friend Calvin, “Reality continues to ruin my life.”
India were the pre-tournament favorites, with every opposition captain calling them the team to beat. However, two straight losses in the Super 8 stage have sent them packing. I’d be lying if I said the losses didn’t hurt. But, what hurt more is the kind of teams India lost to. Losing to Australia or South Africa would have been acceptable but what rankles more is that we lost to West Indies, a side that has been in terminal decline since the time Viv Richards retired and the Poms, a celebrated bunch of whining underachievers.
On paper, India had a very strong batting line up, with some massive hitters of the cricket ball. On paper, the bowling was incisive too. More importantly, all these players were ‘Twenty20 hardened’, having gone through the grind of the IPL. So, what went wrong? Where did we lose? How?
The theory that is doing the rounds, courtesy commentators such as Nasser Hussain, is that India lost because they were found out technically. Their weakness against the short ball was exposed. The media has now latched on to this theory and every newspaper, every cricket website and every news channel in India is talking about how India were bounced out of the tournament.
Teams have always tried to bowl short against India, especially on lively pitches, because our batsmen are obviously uncomfortable against the rising ball. The same tactic was applied by opposition teams in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup as well and the team had coped very well against it. India didn’t lose because of a technical deficiency or lack of skill.
India lost because they didn’t demonstrate the same courage that they had during the 2007 edition. They didn’t play with the same freedom and fearlessness. The swagger was missing, the zeal was non-existent, the hunger for victory was not quite evident. Maybe, they were under pressure of the huge expectations that they were carrying on their shoulders. Harsha Bhogle, during commentary last evening said, “The favorites’ tag has never rested very easily on India”, and I think that is true – the 1987 and 1996 World Cup bear testimony to that.
The lack of inhibition won India the trophy last time, their tentative and defensive approach made them lose it this time. Sending in Jadeja ahead of Yuvraj, Dhoni, and Pathan was clearly a defensive strategy. They didn’t want to lose their premier batsmen against the hostile stuff the English bowlers were dishing out. Rather than taking the bull by the horns, India let the advantage slip to England. Dhoni might still defend his tactics, but I’m sure, in his heart he knows he made a mistake.
I am hoping the media and the so called ‘fans’ will spare the team a whiplash and support them at this time. Knowing the quality that this side possesses, I won’t be surprised if they turn it around very quickly against West Indies, where they are headed next. All they have to do is summon that old self belief. Go India!