In Stats: How the Afghan Spinners Made Indian Batsmen Struggle
The Indian batsmen were guilty of not showing enough intent against Afghanistan’s spin quartet.
When England met Afghanistan at the Old Trafford cricket ground earlier this week, they saw the match as an opportunity to make a statement. The hosts opted to bat first, pummelled the Afghanistan bowling attack and posted 397 for 6 – their highest total in World Cup history and the highest total posted by any team in the ongoing World Cup.
So, when Team India clashed with Afghanistan at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Saturday, 22 June, there was anticipation that Virat Kohli’s side, too, would use the match to assert their dominance in World Cup 2019.
There was the opportunity to make a statement, and there was an opportunity to enhance the net run rate – which could become a critical factor in deciding the semi-final berths.
However, what unfolded was Team India justifiably opting to bat first after winning the toss, but crawling to 224-8 in their allotted 50 overs.
India got off to a poor start, losing man-in-form Rohit Sharma for one. KL Rahul and Kohli put the innings back on track with a 57-run partnership for the second wicket.
India were in control of proceedings when Rahul threw his wicket away; the opener had batted for nearly an hour and had reached 30 when he played a reckless reverse sweep and picked out the fielder at short thirdman.
There have always been questions asked about Rahul’s temperament and shot selection, and the needless reverse sweep only brings the spotlight back on that aspect of his game.
Vijay Shankar too wasted an opportunity to post a big score. Given the circumstances of his selection, there’s a lot of pressure on the Tamil Nadu all-rounder; a big score (even against a low-ranked opponent like Afghanistan) would have silenced the critics and taken the spotlight off him – at least momentarily.
Instead, when all was going well, he attempted to play a sweep shot, when he could have just as well worked the ball off his pads and collected a single.
Kohli was batting fluently and raised his third consecutive half-century – following scores of 82 against Australia and 77 against Pakistan. However, he was dismissed on 67 – done in by extra bounce, his cut shot finding the fielder at point.
It was at this stage that India found themselves in a strange position, for perhaps the first time in WC2019. India had two new batsmen at the crease. So far, in the competition, India have generally had one well-set batsmen at the crease all the time, which ensured that there was no interruption in the run-flow and the scoreboard kept ticking.
On Saturday though, India didn’t have the luxury of a set-batsman in the middle overs, and the scoring rate dropped; at a stage when the Indian batsmen should have actually stepped on the accelerator, the innings decelerated.
Between overs 31 and 40, Team India only scored 42 runs; in contrast, Team India had added 66 and 76 in that block of ten overs in the last two matches when they’d batted first.
Where England paid the price for being ultra-aggressive in their run-chase against Sri Lanka on Friday, the Indians were found being too defensive on Saturday. The Indian batsmen were guilty of not showing enough intent against Afghanistan’s spin quartet.
It was a case of mind over matter and one suspects the Indian batsmen weren’t pumped up sufficiently and were content with just playing out the spinners. How else does one explain the Indian batsmen – some of who are the best in the business – only collecting a total of six boundaries in 34 overs bowled by Afghanistan’s spin quartet?
How else does one explain the Indian batsmen only scoring at 3.50 runs per over against the Afghanistan spinners? Quite simply, the Indian batsmen didn’t play their best cricket on the day.
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