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Monday, December 06, 2021

Kohli admits team was not brave enough; Bumrah says batsmen attacked too early

A 10-wicket hammering to Pakistan was a confidence-shredder last Sunday. A week later, India managed just 110/7 in 20 overs against New Zealand and Kane Williamson’s team won with 33 balls to spare.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Dubai |
November 1, 2021 2:04:29 am
India's captain Virat Kohli applauds after the wicket of New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and India in Dubai, UAE, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

After India’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals of the T20 World Cup was dealt another blow with an eight-wicket loss to New Zealand, skipper Virat Kohli said the team had paid the price for being timid.

India’s losses in their first two matches in this tournament have been bad enough to send meme-makers on an overdrive.

A 10-wicket hammering to Pakistan was a confidence-shredder last Sunday. A week later, India managed just 110/7 in 20 overs against New Zealand and Kane Williamson’s team won with 33 balls to spare.

At the post-match presentation, Kohli spoke about the side being fearful. “I don’t think we were brave enough with bat or ball.”

The confession came from a man who always took pride in playing bold and fearless cricket.

Little wonder then that Virender Sehwag slammed the team’s body language. “Very disappointing from India. NZ were amazing. India’s body language wasn’t great, poor shot selection & like few times in the past, New Zealand have virtually ensured we won’t make it to the next stage. This one will hurt India & time for some serious introspection,” he tweeted.

Kohli said the team had learnt to play under pressure over the years but at the T20 World Cup it wasn’t the case.

“When you play for the Indian cricket team you have a lot of expectations; not just from fans, but players as well. So there’s always going to be more pressure with our games and we have embraced it over the years. Everyone who plays for India has to embrace it. And when you cope together as a team you overcome it and we haven’t done it these two games. Just because you are the Indian team and there are expectations doesn’t mean you start playing differently. I think we’re fine, there’s a lot of cricket left to play.”

The fact of the matter is that, if New Zealand beat Afghanistan, India would be home-bound early. And even if Afghanistan pull off an upset, India will have to win their remaining matches by big enough margins to resurrect a -1.60 run-rate.

Toss is playing a big role in the matches at this tournament and Kohli’s toss luck probably needs divine intervention for a turnaround.

Yet again, he lost the toss but India’s batting approach, especially against two New Zealand spinners, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, left a lot to be desired. Between them, the two spinners gave away just 32 runs for two wickets. For 10 overs, India couldn’t hit a single four.

This is how, the Indian batsmen’s strike-rate went: Ishan Kishan 50, KL Rahul 112.50, Rohit Sharma 100, Kohli 52.94, Rishabh Pant 63.15 and the finisher Hardik Pandya 95.83. Only Ravindra Jadeja’s 26 not out off 19 balls spared the team from complete humiliation. This was a rewind to India’s batting implosion against New Zealand’s spin in their opening game of the 2016 World T20. MS Dhoni’s team bounced back to reach the semifinal. Kohli’s side, with Dhoni as its mentor, is staring down the barrel.

Interestingly, when the Indian spinners bowled, they hardly looked to be making an impact, Of course, New Zealand played without scoreboard pressure, while India succumbing to the Kiwis spin was down to poor shot selection under pressure.

At the post-match press conference, Jasprit Bumrah was asked about India’s batting, and eventually frustration penetrated a stoic veneer. “So obviously I felt that we wanted to give the cushion, and it was a discussion that we want to give the cushion to the bowlers. And that happened.

“So in that I think we went attacking a little early. And the longer boundaries actually came into play. They used their slower balls where they used the wicket quite well to their advantage and they made it difficult for our batters to play the big shots.”

The fast bowler was quick to defend his teammates. “Because the singles were not there on the offer, so they were playing attacking shots. High risk shots were always there. I think that was the summary of what happened today. And that’s for everyone to see.”

Maybe, India batted with the dew factor in the second half on mind and chose to throw caution completely in the wind, trying to break the shackles. Bumrah somewhat agreed.

“I think as a batting unit what we were trying to do is that we know in the second innings dew does play a massive factor. We tried to give us some cushion.

“We wanted to get extra runs that could give us an advantage in the second innings. I think in that process we played a lot of attacking shorts, attacking options. That didn’t come off today.”

The team still remains heavily dependent on Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in big tournaments. After an excellent Test series in England, Rohit suddenly lost his mojo, had an average IPL and got out cheaply in the first two matches here. Kohli has been going through an elongated lean patch across formats and his strike-rate against spin in T20Is over the last one-and-a-half year is 102. His half-century against Pakistan came at a strike-rate of 116. Today he scored nine off 17 balls. India didn’t help their cause by messing up their batting order.

To be fair to the Indian cricketers, they have been constantly moving from one bio-bubble to another and it’s not easy for anybody’s mental health. “Absolutely. Sometimes you need a break. You miss your family sometimes. You have been on the road for six months. So all of that sometimes play on the back of your mind,” Bumrah said.

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