T20 World Cup: Perth Problems, and More Questions for India Ahead of B'desh Game
2022 T20 World Cup: India were defeated by South Africa by 5 wickets on Sunday in Perth.
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If you are one who looks out for a good omen, then here it is: In the 2011 ODI World Cup, Ireland beat England and then South Africa got the better of India in a close encounter. Guess what happened in the end? India ended up being crowned the ODI World Champion after 28 long years.
Well, something similar has happened 11 years later. Ireland has beaten England and South Africa has just about got the better of India in another ICC tournament, only this time it is in the T20I format.
It now remains to be seen if the end result on 13 November will also be the same as the one in 2011.
However, unlike in 2011, the 2022 Indian T20I squad has a lot of loopholes to fill, if they hope to return to Melbourne on 13 November for the title clash.
India's Patchy Perth Record
India’s record at Perth, the venue for its clash against South Africa, was at best patchy. But that record was formed at the old WACA ground which was infamous for its pace and bounce. Even before an Indian tour to Australia would start we would hear stories about how the pace at WACA would terrorise the visiting batters.
We had a number of ODI encounters at WACA where India’s batters would have been demolished, only for the Indian bowlers to make a valiant effort to make a comeback. But the fight would end abruptly because India often did not have enough runs on the board. The same was true for the Test matches at the WACA. But for that famous 2008 Test win at Perth where Anil Kumble’s side played with vengeance post the 'Monkeygate' scandal, India had always found the going tough there.
Well as luck would have it, India’s patchy record at Perth continued, but only this time at the new Stadium. Months before India’s clash against South Africa, there were talks about how the side would match up to the Proteas' venomous pace attack. Then India beat South Africa at home in both T20I and ODI series before the T20 World Cup. Everything was forgotten.
Then when Pakistan lost to Zimbabwe on a helpful pitch at Perth, things came to a head. That’s when everyone realised that India has a battle on its hand against South Africa.
India's Batters Fell Short vs Proteas Pace
There was a lot of pace and bounce in the pitch. It was helping the quicker bowlers. The Indian batters just did not measure upto the challenge. If you look at the shot selection, you realise that it is more the batters who brought about their downfall, than the bowlers.
Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje do form a terrific new ball attack. They bowled with a lot of fire, especially Nortje. But shots by the Indian batters left a lot to be desired.
Of course fingers will be pointed at the Indian top-order including openers Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and number three Virat Kohli. If not for Suryakumar Yadav India’s batting would have terribly faltered. There are also sniggers about how Dinesh Karthik slowed down the game. But the fact is at that stage Yadav needed support and his partnership with Karthik was essential in India getting past 100.
India’s middle to lower-order once again did not contribute, raising questions about a one-dimensional line-up. Just what is Deepak Hooda’s role in the line-up, no one seems to know.
Bowling Weakened by Axar Exclusion
In the bowling department, India took a big gamble by leaving out Axar Patel and bringing in Hooda. It was at best a defensive move because it weakened the bowling immensely. You saw how Hardik Pandya, who is at best India’s sixth bowling option, was suddenly the fifth bowler and that is a huge step up. We may not realise this but Pandya is a support bowler, he is not your main strike force. But sometimes the team management seems to get a bit carried away.
Also you saw when you have four regular bowlers, plus Pandya, it is a gamble, because Ravichandran Ashwin was taken to task by Aiden Markram and David Miller. In a match where most batters struggled to get going, Ashwin was all over the place, conceding 43 runs in his four overs.
Why Play Hooda and Not Utilise Him?
Then coming back to the Hooda question, it remains a mystery on just what he is doing in the XI, if the captain does not even think about giving him a bowl. An over or two just to break the momentum would have been fine. But Sharma just does not have the confidence in Hooda’s bowling.
Ideally, India should have played an extra seamer instead of Axar. With very limited options in the squad, the only other option is Harshal Patel. Now the question is on a pitch where fast bowlers got enough and more support, does the team management not have the confidence in Harshal? It does look like it because he was not even considered. Instead, India went in for a defensive approach.
In T20 cricket you need a minimum of six good bowling options and one to support the main cast if you have any hope of winning. India’s one-dimensional squad with very few dual purpose players makes it very difficult for the team think-tank to shuffle.
It is almost as if there is a quota that has been mandated for dual purpose players in the line-up especially of the seam bowling variety. Someone like a Shardul Thakur who is on the sidelines as travelling reserve would have been a useful backup seamer once the top three would have finished.
You saw the difference when India had South Africa on the ropes, there was such a big gap between the main pacers and the support cast. It became easy for Markram and Miller to milk the attack. That allowed South Africa to come back into the contest.
Big Questions Ahead of Bangladesh Clash
India has a few things to think about before their next clash against Bangladesh on Wednesday in Adelaide. They just need to take a call on their vice-captain Rahul. He just does not inspire any kind of confidence and when you do not have a second skill to back you up, then you become a liability.
Thereafter, India needs to take a call on Ashwin. Now it is clear that it is Ashwin’s batting which has tilted the skills in his favour over Yuzvendra Chahal.
Would leg-spin have been a useful weapon to possess against South Africa? Would Chahal be able to strike in the overs between seven to 15? That’s a question that will plague the mind of Rahul Dravid and Sharma before the next clash.
India also needs to take a call on whether they are actually going to play Karthik going forward. He came into bat inside the first 10 overs when all along since June 2022 he was being sent in with three or four overs to go. Rishabh Pant has been warming the bench since the start, maybe with Karthik getting injured it opens a window of opportunity.
Harshal is another name that the team management needs to think about. He may not be required again in the tournament. Perth was the best chance to field an extra pacer. But if Harshal is not considered here as well, it makes one wonder what is his role in the squad?
The fielding is a big aspect that needs to be looked at before the next game. India has a number of slow movers in their line-up. Markram and Miller targeted those slow coaches and milked them happily during their match-winning partnership.
If you put the captain at the top of the list it would not be a huge mistake. The less said about the catching the better. Kohli’s dropped chance in the deep will be talked about for a long time to come. But we have seen similar dropped chances in recent times, most notably during the Asia Cup.
India has plenty to worry and think about over the next couple of days.
But if you are a passionate Indian supporter, then do not worry much for it seems as if stars are aligning once again.
Remember: Ireland has beaten England; South Africa has just about got the better of India. Things are falling into place…
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