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Tactical Imperfections Hit Team India on The Face in T20 World Cup 2021

The outcome of the penultimate Group 2 Super 12 match between New Zealand and Afghanistan was on the anticipated lines, and when it transpired at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening, the discerning was not really surprised. New Zealand won the match hands down, and slotted in for the semi-finals where it will take on England.

New Zealand’s win straightaway eliminated India from the knock out of a world event that was founded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2007 and which Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team, without the big guns like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, went on to win with two wins against Pakistan, including the final.

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The ever-hopeful Indian cricket fans scattered across the world were disappointed when reality happened on Sunday with New Zealand notching an eight wicket win, but they had seen it coming after the Virat Kohli led team received a thorough drubbing at the hands of Pakistan and afterwards by New Zealand.

India will take on Namibia in its last Super 12 match before returning home for a white-ball and Test series against New Zealand. There has been conversations around India’s dismal displays in the two matches against Pakistan and New Zealand, central to India’s qualification for the knock-out.

India had never lost to Pakistan in a 50 over or Twenty20 World Cup match since 1992 ( Benson and Hedges World Cup in Australia). India were not in the same group as Pakistan in the Prudential World Cups of 1975, 1979

and 1983, all played in England and also in the same group of the competition held in the Reliance World Cup held in India and Pakistan in 1987.

So, Pakistan defied history when it trounced India by ten wickets at the Dubai International Stadium on October 24, but New Zealand scored its third straight win against India in a World Twenty20 tournament; the previous two wins being in the 2007 competition in South Africa and at Nagpur in the 2016 World Cup.

When the 15 member Indian team was selected in mid-September to meet the first ICC deadline, the chairman of the selection committee Chetan Sharma averred that Hardik Pandya would be fit enough to bowl four overs in each and every match, as is allowed in a Twenty20.

On the basis of what happened in the phase 2 of the IPL played in the UAE, one could surmise that his lower back was not in top shape. Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardane and captain Rohit Sharma also gave sufficient hints of Pandya not being ready to do the medium pace bowling exertions.

Then finally on the eve of the match against Pakistan, Kohli revealed that Pandya will be able to bowl two overs at some stage of the tournament. All this confirmed Pandya’s fitness concerns and that the selectors were wrong in picking him. Even after the IPL, the selectors did not want to review his case. And this inaction on the part of the selectors meant that Kohli was keen and deploying Pandya as a batsman alone.

While the selectors chose a not so fit Pandya, they did not see merit in choosing Shreyas Iyer, although he had played the full phase 2 of IPL for the Delhi Capitals. Iyer, a regular in the Indian team for white ball cricket (29 Twenty20 and 22 ODIs) ought to have been a superior option than the likes of Suryakumar Yadav or Ishan Kishan.

The selectors made one change in mid-October, as allowed by the ICC, and that was bringing Shardul Thakur into the squad and shifting left arm spinner Axar Patel in the reserve group of three.

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India’s batting revolved around the top three in Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Kohli, the bulk of the scorers in the Twenty20 format. But Pakistan deployed Shaheen Shah Afridi’s left arm over the wicket nip backers to dismantle Sharma and Rahul. The right-handers have countered the likes of Afridi, but he put to use this particular delivery with perfection. And batters rarely survive when defeated in the air and of the surface.

Afridi had a major say in this opening match for India. After his deadly spells of three overs and one over, India and Kohli banked on Varun Chakravarthy to tease and taunt the Pakistan, but heavy dew fall prevented his mystery spin to play tricks. Chakravarthy managed his first three overs well, but suffered in the fourth. He went wicket less again against New Zealand, but conceded at 5.75 an over.

Chakravarthy gave away five an over against Scotland – he did not play against Afghanistan- but did not get a wicket. Clearly he was unlucky to bowl when dew had firmed up the pitch and the ball did not turn much to make him a force. But it was his inability to strike in the power play that hurt India’s bowling department.

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India put itself nearer the exit door when the top order thought that going for sixes was the only way to pile up runs in the power play comprising 36 balls. Kishan fell in the 3rd over and Rahul in the last ball of the power play and then Sharma and Kohli were outwitted by leg spinner Ish Sodhi. India lost its way after losing Kohli in the first ball of the 11th over.

The writing on the wall was clear after a lacklustre show against New Zealand. The toss favoured Pakistan and New Zealand; while it was outplayed by Afridi and Pakistan, India fell short on the tactical count against New Zealand after being asked to bat.

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