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In Stats: Blame Kohli & Rohit As Much As Dhoni & Jadhav

India fell into the trap of not adapting their style of play to meet the demands of the current game.

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In Stats: Blame Kohli & Rohit As Much As Dhoni & Jadhav
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After their defeats to Sri Lanka and Australia, England were called out as ‘flat track’ bullies and criticised for not adapting to the surfaces being used in the World Cup 2019.

In a match against England, India fell into the trap of not adapting their style of play to meet the demands of the current game.

Virat Kohli and company had successfully employed a conservative brand of cricket earlier in the competition, but at the Edgbaston on Sunday, 30 June, in pursuit of a target of 338, they were stubborn and stuck on the conservative formula that had powered them to five wins, when the need of the hour was to play a different brand of cricket. Not surprisingly, India finished 31 runs short of England’s score of 337.

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Decision-Making in the Field & the Dressing Room

While the bulk of the criticism for the defeat has to be copped by the Indian batsmen, one should also ask questions about some of the decision-making by the captain and coach.

First, at the toss captain Virat Kohli announced Rishabh Pant had been drafted into the XI in place of Vijay Shankar, who was carrying a ‘toe niggle’. Cricket is a physically demanding sport, and injuries and niggles are part of every sportsman’s career. Almost every cricketer is carrying a niggle almost all the time, and very few miss a match for their country because of a niggle. Why would the Indian team management leave out Vijay Shankar – who was praised by none other than the captain in the pre-match press conference – be left out for a ‘toe niggle’? Baffling selection.

England rushed back Jason Roy, who missed a couple of the earlier games because of a hamstring injury, into their XI. Captain Eoin Morgan clearly explained they were ready to risk selecting Roy – even if the injury hadn’t healed 100% and only presented a short-term risk. On the other hand, Team India dropped a player for a niggle!

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Later on, when India were in the field, when the Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were being taken to the cleaners, why didn’t the Indian captain try out Kedar Jadhav, who is in the team in the capacity of an all-rounder. Jadhav is a street smart bowler – and often troubles batsmen with his slinging action and flattish off-breaks. Even if he had failed, he couldn’t have done worse than the other two spinners had done.

If Jadhav wasn’t fit enough to roll his arm over in the match, why is he in the team as an all-rounder?

Wouldn’t Team India have been better off with a specialist batsman, another fast bowler (if available), a three-dimensional cricketer who is rated very highly, or Ravindra Jadeja (who the Indian captain apparently only remembers when he needs a substitute on the field)?

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Spotlight on the Batsmen

India had to pull off the highest run-chase in the history of World Cups to walk away with the two points that would have confirmed a semi-final berth. The chase was dented early on when opener KL Rahul was dismissed for a blob in the third over. Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes bowled an excellent new ball spell, kept asking questions repeatedly and deserve high praise.

However, given the fact that batting is a reactive skill, the Indian batsmen had every opportunity to ‘react’ – or even be proactive and upset the bowlers’ rhythm. Instead, Rohit Sharma and Kohli chose to see off the testing period. It was a mindset thing; it was a caution-only approach, as against caution mixed with aggression. That explains India’s score of 28 for 1 in the first ten overs – the lowest powerplay 1 score in World Cup 2019.

The Indian batsmen played out a total of 48 dot balls and collected only 6 singles in the first ten overs. Five boundaries contributed to the majority of the 28 runs scored in that early period.

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In the post-match presentation, the Indian captain referred to the short 59m boundary at the Edgbaston and how challenging it was for the Indian bowlers. Questions to be asked: (1) why didn’t India select for the conditions, and (2) did the size of the boundary change during the Indian innings?

The Indian bowlers were hit for a total for 13 sixes in their 50 overs; the spin-duo of Chahal and Kuldeep were at the receiving end for 9 of those.

Surely, it wouldn’t have been that easy for the English batsmen to pick out Kedar Jadhav’s low trajectory and hit him over the boundary! Especially if he was brought on from the end where the leg-side boundary was the longer boundary.

In contrast, the Indian batsmen hit only ONE six in the entire innings – that too came off the first ball of the 50th over.

Finally, while MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav were criticised – and should be – for their baffling approach in the final overs, one must also ask questions of the approach of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli early on, for that was where the damage was done. When the ball was hard and new, Rohit and Virat – number one and two in the ICC ODI Rankings for batsmen – should have done more than they actually did. At the end of 20 overs, Rohit Sharma was 33 from 52 balls (strike rate 63.46), while Kohli was 50 from 59 balls (with 33 dot balls).

There’s no shame in admitting that England outplayed India. But here was an opportunity for the Indian team to make a statement and stamp their authority on a world stage. It was an opportunity missed.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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