ADELAIDE: It’s not the sort of end to their World Cup campaign that India would have liked. Unfortunately, all the chinks in their armour, especially the bowling, stood brutally exposed on the biggest stage of all on Thursday night against a mighty England side.
AS IT HAPPENED: INDIA VS ENGLAND
The distraught image of Rohit Sharma standing alone after the game, head bowed, lost in thought and plucking at his beard said it all. India unravelled in dramatic fashion in the semifinal, losing by 10 wickets after having put up 168/6 with the bat.
England’s openers, arguably two of the best T20I batters around, chased the runs down with 24 balls remaining. England captain Jos Buttler ended on a 49-ball 80 not out. ‘Man of the match’ Alex Hales bludgeoned a 47-ball, unbeaten 86.
India messed up the Powerplay at both ends, first with the bat, managing just 38/1 in the first six overs and batting like they had been put in on a minefield. By the end of 16 overs India were only 110/3 before Hardik Pandya, who eventually finished on a scintillating 33-ball 63, exploded in the end overs. Virat Kohli scored another half-century but Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul’s edgy starts really hurt India in this tournament, more so in the semifinal.
With the ball, according to their captain, India “just didn’t turn up”. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, arguably their most important new-ball bowler, gave away 25 off his first two and couldn’t complete his quota. Bhuvi’s much-vaunted matchup against Buttler (the England captain had been dismissed 5 times in 32 balls by the bowler in T20Is before this) now lies torn to shreds.
England were 63/0 after the first six, their second highest Powerplay score in a T20I against India, and the contest was effectively over at that point. “We batted pretty well at the back end but we weren’t good enough with the ball,” Rohit said. “It was definitely not a wicket where a team could come and chase down (the runs) in 16-17 overs. With the ball we just didn’t turn up. These things happen.”
So India’s knockout jinx still stands, and they have now lost in a World Cup semifinal the last four times they have reached that far: the 2015 ODI World Cup, the 2016 World T20 and the 2019 ODI WC before Thursday. It isn’t just about numbers and match-ups and pins on the tactics board in these games: India simply lacked England’s fire and passion and intensity. They couldn’t raise their game like their opponents did on the night. They were flat with the bat and listless with the ball.
It was as if a team adored for its exciting brand of cricket was playing in fear. It could be pressure. It could be tactics gone awry because of England’s powerful presence. It could be both.
With Jos Buttler and Alex England running amok and England 91/0 in the first nine overs, Rohit even called an unprecedented mid-pitch meeting to galvanise the troops. The truth is India did not have the weapons at their disposal to unsettle Buttler and Hales, or chose not to opt for them on the night. To top it all, even their fielding came undone at times.
England, still nursing deep hurt after the shock defeat to Ireland, now will go on to play Pakistan in the final in a repeat of the 1992 World Cup final.
The cause lost, India are now left to analyse their tactics and selection choices at leisure. Sure, the pitch was a bit damp first-up and there was some slow turn on offer, but why were they so nervy?
“When it comes to the knockout stages, it’s about handling that pressure,” Rohit said. “It depends on individuals. You can’t really go and teach how to handle pressure. All these guys have played enough cricket to understand that. A lot of these guys play in the IPL playoffs and all of that, it’s a high-pressure game,some of these guys are able to handle that. Holding yourself a little bit and keeping calm. I thought the way we started off with the ball was not ideal. That shows we were a little nervy to start off, but again we’ve got to give credit to their openers.”
Why did India not send Rishabh Pant up the order to counter the leg-breaks of Adil Rashid and Livingstone when he had been selected for that specific role? How long before Rohit’s struggle with form is acknowledged? Should they have picked a leg-spinner — Yuzvendra Chahal — in these conditions? Will India still persist with Bhuvneshwar in this format?
India’s slow starts had been covered up largely by Suryakumar Yadav‘s maverick knocks till now, and once Rashid got rid of him India could sense trouble. Should Kohli and Co. have been more proactive against spin?
Such big losses usually have repercussions. India still made 58 off their last four overs but their T20 top-order approach looks dated. And whatever hope Pandya’s knock kindled at the break died quickly when Buttler and Hales got going.
T20 World Cup: Hales, Buttler star as England rout India to cruise into final