How India under-performed in T20 WC? A quick look at the recipe that left a bad taste in our mouth

Written By: Aditya Sahay WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Nov 13, 2021, 11:58 AM(IST)

How Team India managed to under-perform in T20 WC? Photograph:( AFP )

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Despite having some big names, being touted as strong contenders and having MS Dhoni as mentor, how did Team India manage to fail in the T20 World Cup? Here's why:

Since 2013, Team India have entered the knockouts in every ICC event. They won the Champions Trophy in 2013, ended as runners-up in 2014 T20 World Cup, 2017 Champions Trophy and inaugural World Test Championship. Further, they lost the semi-finals in the 2015 and 2019 ODI World Cup as well as in the 2016 T20 WC. 

Being the dominant force at home, winning bilateral series across formats while being on the road and having played the IPL 14 final leg in UAE, Virat Kohli's Team India entered the 2021 T20 WC as one of the strongest contenders. In addition, they entered the showpiece event as the second-best side in terms of ICC T20I rankings (still hold the same position) but failed to make it to the last four. 

While such one-off blips are always inevitable, how did India manage to falter when they had all the boxes ticked? Or, did they really have all bases covered before entering the multi-nation tournament? 

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Before we analyse how India managed to fall like nine pins, let's go through the pros attached to the Men in Blue camp. For starters, India had a solid top three -- Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Captain Virat Kohli. In addition, they had power-hitters in abundance in the form of Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja. Moreover, all their power-hitters were able finishers as well. In the bowling department, India comprised ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, seasoned campaigner Bhuvneshwar Kumar and were bolstered by the return of R Ashwin in the spin department. 'Mystery bowler' Varun Chakravarthy and Mumbai Indians' (MI) wicket-taker Rahul Chahar also had enough experience in UAE conditions (courtesy their recent IPL stints).

The one-time winners were surely extra motivated to give a proper send-off to the outgoing coaching staff, led by Ravi Shastri, and Captain Kohli (who had already announced that the T20 WC will be his last assignment as India's skipper in the shortest format). Above all, the national side also comprised MS Dhoni -- the most successful international captain with all three major ICC titles in his cabinet -- as mentor.

HOW DID INDIA STILL MANAGE TO FALTER?

CONTINUOUS CRICKET, TIRED LEGS, BIO-BUBBLE ISSUES

For the unversed, Team India players have been super busy in the post Covid-19 era. Competitive cricket returned with IPL 2020 in the UAE. The gruelling 60 matches kept the Indian players on their toes as they returned to the 22-yard cricket strip after a long gap. In addition, they were acclimatising with the bio-bubble demands. The mega event was followed by an full-fledged Australia tour (from November 27, 2020 to January 19, 2021).

The Australia trip was followed by England's all-format tour of India in early 2021, from February 5 to March 28. Soon, IPL 14's first leg followed suit, from April 09.

The Covid-19's second wave led to this year's IPL season's postponement on May 4. Hence, it did serve as some respite for the Indian players, giving them more time before the United Kingdom tour. The original IPL 2021 schedule was supposed to end on May 30. On the other hand, India were scheduled to play the WTC final on June 18 at Southampton. Hence, their break would've been minimal given how teams have to report early for mandatory quarantines and entering a bio-bubble environment. 

Let's get back to how things actually shaped up! Indian players got a break with IPL 14's postponement but had to enter the bio-bubble in Mumbai, on May 19, for UK tour. They left for the UK on June 2 and departed for the UAE, in mid-September, after the fifth and final England Test got cancelled on September 10.

Note: Indian players were given a 20-day bio-bubble break post the WTC final, before reassembling for the England Tests.

Coming to the UAE, Indian players reported to their respective IPL franchises, as the tournament lasted till October 15. Soon, India played their Super 12 opener in the T20 WC, on October 24, before they bowed out with their last league stage match on November 8.

India's cricketing schedule in post-pandemic era

India tour of Australia: Nov 27, 2020- Jan 19, 2021

England tour of India: Feb 5- March 28

IPL 14 first leg: April 9-May 4

India vs New Zealand, WTC final: June 18-23

India vs England Tests in the UK: August 4-September 10 

IPL 14 final leg: Sep 19-Oct 15

T20 WC: Oct 24-Nov 8

Barring the WTC final, India dominated and enjoyed considerable success in the post Covid-era. Somewhere down the line, the law of averages was always going to catch up with them.

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NOT MANAGING 'PROBLEMS OF PLENTY', QUESTIONABLE SELECTIONS, APPALLING STRATEGIES

Apart from the continuous cricket, it is important to note that India's main squad assembled for the first time in T20Is for the World Cup. They had last played together in the format during the England home series, which ended on March 28. Thus, there was a staggering gap of 201 days (counting till the IPL finale on October 15). One can argue that the Indian players were still in the T20 groove by playing in the IPL. However, that they were performing different roles donning varied jerseys in the cash-rich league. 

While the bio-bubble strain and fatigue factor had already kicked in, which was clearly evident the Pakistan and New Zealand face-offs, some eye-catching selections and poor strategies added to an exhausted side's woes. For instance, overlooking Yuzvendra Chahal -- who has been India's spin spearhead -- despite his form in IPL 14's final leg, not even including him in the standby list, putting Deepak Chahar (who has second-best figures overall in T20Is: 6 for 7) among standby players, suddenly adding R Ashwin (overlooked in limited-overs since 2017), preferring Varun Chakravarthy in the opening two games cost Kohli & Co. severely.

Note: Prior to the World Cup, the KKR spinner Chakravarthy had represented India in only three T20Is. 

Having problems of plenty is surely a headache teams would like to afford While India have been blessed with plenty of T20I stars, are they managing them wisely? In order to unleash Ishan Kishan versus New Zealand, after the Pakistan mauling, India demoted Rohit Sharma at No. 3. Their best batsman was dropped down in the batting order at the expense of a young batter. Appalling! (Remember how India had auditioned several players for the No. 4 spot for the 2019 ODI World Cup before claiming that they will remain flexible with the batting slot in their campaign?)

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TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH

Lastly, the whole of Indian cricket fraternity was in jubilant mood following MS Dhoni's appointment as team mentor for the mega event. After all, Dhoni had led India to their last ICC title in 2013 and enjoys huge respect among the current crop of players. As feared and already pointed out by Sunil Gavaskar, it seems it did lead to having several strong minds within the Team India dressing room, causing more ruckus in a 'problems of plenty' squad.

Undoubtedly, there is no question being raised about 'rift' issues. However, the tired minds and exhausted squad also couldn't gain much from Dhoni's presence. 

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