The grand finale of the World T20 will see England and West Indies battle it out for the World Cup title at the Mecca of Indian cricket, Eden Gardens on Sunday. If someone had taken the name of these two teams as the finalists of the event, in the beginning, he could well have been the stock of laughter and butt of many trolls. India had played such a dominant brand of cricket in the lead up to the marquee event that it was even hard to imagine any team beyond India as the champions of the World T20. The home conditions, current form, powerful batting, strong bowling, electrifying fielding and everything seemed so destined for the Men in Blue.
But throughout the event, Indians were hot and cold but yet they had the guts and balls to make it to the Semis. But the Carribean side proved too hot to handle for the hosts in the semi-final. It meant a major heartbreak for the nation in which billions of people are crazy for the sport. Today, we dig deeper to analyse the various facets of India’s loss at the hands of West Indies.
First of all, as the venue was Wankhede, it was expected to be a batting paradise. And it played true to its reputation as well. It was out and out a flat deck with the ball coming on to the bat invariably on a good bounce. The league matches at Mumbai were high-scoring thrillers with the dew factor coming into play heavily in the second innings. West Indies won the all important toss and had no hesitation in bowling first.
At a wicket like this you never know what is a good score and in the Super-10 stage, England had chased down a massive total of 230 runs on the same ground to give further headaches to the Indian batsmen.
The local boy, Ajinkya Rahane and middle-order batsman, Manish Pandey were drafted into the playing eleven. India missed a trick by not going for a specialist spinner in form of Harbhajan Singh or the spinning all-rounder, Pawan Negi. On a flat batting pitch, if you need such depth in your batting line-up with a Test centurion slotted at the no.9 position, it shows the lack of belief of the team management on the batting prowess of the team.
Team India batted out of their skins to post a towering total of 192 runs on the board. Virat Kohli put up a masterclass again. Rohit also played a good hand but Rahane could score only 40 runs off 35 deliveries at a rather low strike-rate of 114. Later, MSD justified his innings by saying that he did what was expected of him. Neither it was a square turner nor India lacked depth in batting, so such an innings by Rahane with big hitters like Raina, Pandya, and Dhoni in the hut raises questions as to what was the role assigned to him? Certainly on a small ground and a flat deck, shouldn’t the team management have told him that he can go for the kill instead of playing the waiting game after a certain period of time? Rahane is a team man and the way he played indicates towards a definite plan by the team. Whatever it was it caused a shortage of around 10-15 runs to the Indian total.
But still chasing 193 runs in a big semifinal match is enough to shiver any team especially if their premier batsman, Chris Gayle gets out early but certainly that was not the case with West Indies. The Calypso kings played like kings and it seemed as if they had all the luck in the world as well. The key to outplay a team like India always lies in the way the opponent batters fare up against their spinners. And to the delight of West Indies and disappointment of Indians, dew came to the party and it became exceedingly hard to grip the ball for the spinners.
But yet Ashwin is the no.1 spinner in the world for some serious reasons and after the Power Play overs, he got rid of the dangerous looking Lendl Simmons as well, but to his bad luck it was a no-ball. Can you imagine a spinner bowling a no-ball? Man!! It’s a serious crime considering he is not even a pacer and Ash hardly bowls no-balls. But cricket is a funny old game. And then all the bowlers started getting hammered with Jadeja and Ashwin being highly ineffective. Maybe, Harbhajan Singh’s experience of 18 years at the top level could have come handy in the match or a certain Raina who has a golden arm and a undeniable knack of picking up crucial scalps and who knows this better than, MSD himself.
Even Pandya didn’t take wickets this time around and surprisingly he was consistently bowling half trackers. Does it make any sense to bowl such lengths on a true wicket like Wankhede? The West Indians love to pounce on such deliveries so such a strange planning was like planning for failure. Occasionally, when he bowled full-length deliveries, it fled past the edge of the bat but he continued with the short stuff as if it was decided in the team meeting way before the match.
The required rate was around 12 runs per over throughout the course of the chase but there was hardly any sweat on the face of the Carribean guys. Neither they were showing any signs of desperation while running between the wickets as they were playing with their own swagger and mantra of “stand and deliver”. The media and people in their country, sorry it’s not even a country as it’s a combination of many, but whatever it is, they don’t make heroes and zeroes out of their players after cricket matches and it was rubbing on their game as well.
King Kohli came to the party once again and broke the dangerous looking partnership between Charles and Simmons. The Wankhede crowd could again feel the enchanting memories of the 2011 World Cup final. West Indies required 73 runs off 36 deliveries, nearly two runs per ball which was always a dreadful task but then came the turning point of the match. Instead of giving the ball to the best spinner of the world, Ashwin or any main bowler, gambler Dhoni gave the ball to Pandya and even West Indies knew it was the over were they would either perish or bring the required rate and the match under their control. The latter happened as West Indies looted 19 runs off the over though Hardik took the wicket of Simmons but as the fate would have it, he overstepped the line, maybe it was that Lakshman Rekha (protected line) of the match that he shouldn’t have crossed to keep his side in the contention.
People are still trying to figure out, why Ashwin bowled only 2 overs in the match? Was he the leader of the attack or a rookie Pandya who bowled out his full quota of overs? The 15th over could have been given to any other specialist bowler considering the quota of the fifth bowler was already done with. After that over, only a magic could have saved India that was not to be. Jadeja had been taken to the cleaners but MSD gave him the 19th over instead of Ashwin and even the 20th over was given to Kohli, not Ashwin. The debatable question, why Ashwin didn’t bowl his full quota of overs would haunt Dhoni for a while as he could have been the bowler to make a difference like he so often does. Even Kohli would have been thinking am I really bowling the final over in the Semi-final match of a World Cup? Like really??
But Cricket is Cricket and Dhoni is Dhoni. Sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t.
You can blame anyone for the loss, the pitch, the toss, the no-balls, MSD’s tactical errors, India’s poor bowling but you cannot take away the credit from West Indians who seem to be born to play 20-overs cricket and stunned billions of Indians to seal the ticket of the grand finale.