Team India has enjoyed a stupendous run of form in their tour of the rainbow nation so far. Not only have they thumped South Africa 5-1 in the ODI series, but also gone on to register their ninth bilateral series victory. However, as the men in blue go from strength-to-strength and keep delivering near flawless performances with each passing match, a chink in their armour has been slowly emerging – a tendency to choke in the death overs.
Death overs is a crunch time in a limited overs cricket match. It is during this period where batsmen go all guns blazing and try to maximise their team’s total. Whether it is by conventional cricketing shots or unorthodox methods – the goal is to get the total on the scoreboard as high as possible. And it is here that team India is falling short, time and again. To understand the problem further, let’s take a look at a few cases:
In the Pink ODI at New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, India got off to a rollicking start, courtesy of opener Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli. In 35 overs they had reached the 200 run-mark and were looking at a score of somewhere around 350 in their allocated 50 overs. After an unfortunate rain delay when India came back to the field, they could only manage 83 runs in the last 15 overs. Break it down further, India produced only 53 runs in the last 10 overs. Hard-hitting batsmen like MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya consistenly failed to get under the ball and clear the ropes. Young Shreyas Iyer was also seen flashing at deliveries without any timing. Dhoni’s innings of 42 of 43 balls was the perfect example of Indian batsmen’s weakness in the death overs. South African bowlers also did no favours and consistently hit the block-hole while bowling a good line and length.
The next encounter at Port Elizabeth was another illustration where India managed to put up imposing scores at the beginning but were unable to maintain the momentum. After getting a terrific start and building a perfect platform India managed just 55 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in the last 10 overs. From 176/3 in 31.5 overs they could only muster 274/7 in 50 overs. The same problems reared their head once again but thankfully they did not pay the price as the bowlers restricted the Proteas to 201 and taking India to a win.
In the first T20I, India got off to a flier and score 78/2 in the powerplay. In 10 overs they had posted 106/2. At this point, it seemed like India were on course for a score of somewhere near 225 or 230. However, they ended up with 203, a par score on the ground. But this instance once again highlighted India’s failure to accelerate in the final stages of a game. Manish Pandey’s 29 of 27 balls with one six and MS Dhoni’s 16 off 11 balls (2 fours) was just not good enough on the day.
Cricket is constantly evolving and while powerplays continue to be one area which batsmen target, the rate at which runs are being scored in death overs is often astronomical. Anything less than 10 per runs per over is considered to be a crime. Given India’s performance and the focus being on World Cup 2019, it is time the Indian think-tank address this issue before it is too little too late. After all oppositions around the world are simply waiting for a weak-link to strike and inflict maximum damage.