As the euphoria subsides, maybe it’s time for a reality check for MS Dhoni’s Indian team. They rode on Virat Kohli’s almost supernatural innings to beat Australia in Mohali on Sunday night and reach the World T20 semi-finals but until now, it has been largely a one-man show as far as the batting is concerned. Rohit Sharma has scored 45 runs in four innings, Shikhar Dhawan has made 43, Suresh Raina 41 and Yuvraj Singh 51. Kohli’s genius – 184 runs at 92.00 – has masked the collective batting failure.
But how long will this continue? Kohli got out cheaply against New Zealand and the team folded for 79. He didn’t get going against Bangladesh and India hung on the precipice. Talks have gathered momentum about India running away with the cup after Sunday’s victory but it would be presumptuous to rule out other three semi-finalists – West Indies, New Zealand and England.
T20 is the most fickle format the game can offer; that India has piggybacked on Kohli so far is not an ideal scenario. Ajinkya Rahane’s omission from the playing XI remains questionable but Dhoni has a mind of his own and after a 13-2 win/loss record in India’s last 15 T20 internationals, you can hardly question his wisdom. Rahane might have an opportunity in the semi-final if Yuvraj fails to recover from a twisted ankle. He brings in class and a lot more energy in the field and running between the wickets.
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Talking about Dhoni, his captaincy – especially his handling of the bowlers – has been inspirational. His presence, and of course Kohli’s, give India an edge, when they take on West Indies at Wankhede on Thursday.
The West Indies’ loss to Afghanistan was somewhat unexpected but by then they had already sealed their spot in the last four. It’s unlikely that the Caribbeans would carry the excess baggage of their Nagpur defeat to Mumbai.
They played as a team in their wins over England, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Leg-spinner Samuel Badree is in fine fettle with six wickets at
13.66. Left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn has maintained an outstanding economy rate of 4.93. Seamers Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo, too, have made important contributions with the ball, collecting 13 scalps between them. Andre Fletcher has shown composure with the bat. Having big-hitters down to No. 9 adds to West Indies’ positives and then there’s Chris Gayle, who will return in the semi-finals to provide the X-factor.
New Zealand have made a seamless transition from Brendon McCullum to Kane Williamson. They are the only team to win all their group league fixtures, thanks to arguably the most disciplined bowling unit in the tournament. Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner has taken to Indian pitches like a duck to water. A tally of nine wickets in four matches at an economy rate of 5.73 attests his impact. His spin-bowling partner Ish Sodhi has risen to the challenge as well, accounting for eight scalps at an economy rate of 4.97. In Williamson and Martin Guptill, the team has had a settled opening combination followed by dashers like Colin Munro and Corey Anderson. And Williamson has led brilliantly. Leaving out Tim Southee and Trent Boult from XI in all group games and still maintaining top team spirit requires excellent man management skills. The new captain has impressed.
England have been playing fearless cricket under Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss. In Joe Root, they have a world-class batsman across formats. Ben Stokes is arguably the best allrounder in the world at the moment. But England’s success is down to a refreshing change in their attitude as the players now appear to have the licence to express themselves on the field. England fascinatingly ran down a victory target of 230 against South Africa. They showed resolve after being reduced to 85/7 against Afghanistan. They are the surprise package of the tournament – good enough to upset the Kiwi applecart.