In T20 cricket, it’s very difficult to point to something and say A, B and C went wrong. But yes, India could probably have done some things differently even while realising that this wasn't the Indian Premier League.
The pressure during the IPL is very different, as you are performing for your franchises. It’s quite intense. Perhaps, the players felt more in their comfort zone when they went back into an Indian set-up and it cost them. It sounds odd but it makes sense.
But where we went under (especially in Barbados) was in the pace-bowling department. After Praveen went back, Zaheer seemed to be struggling with something and Ashish, on his own, wasn’t enough on that wicket. Our selection was wrong in Barbados, where we played an extra batsman. India did not show faith in Vinay on a wicket that offered both bounce and carry, which was a mistake.
In T20 cricket, you’ve to take your chances, go with your gut. You’ve to make choices that might backfire but are more likely to get you a win. You can’t be defensive and justify it by hoping things will work out.
The lack of faith in our pace bowlers though, is worrying on a larger scale. If you look at the number of players who have turned out for India over the past couple of years, there's quality. Yet, they’ve all disappeared: You don’t have Sreesanth, RP Singh is completely off the selectors’ radar, there’s no news of Munaf, Ishant seems out of sync, and Irfan, a key player in any format, is gone. What’s going on?
In Irfan’s case especially, it’s worrying because while India have spinning all-rounders, players who can do a bit here and there, they need someone for the role Shane Watson does so well for Australia, Kallis has done for years for South Africa or a Tim Bresnan, with his ability to bowl 137-138 kms per hour and then bat, is beginning to do for England.
We need to look at how we’re handling our pacemen — just like we’ve picked Mithun, who turned out for India in the last one-dayer against South Africa, for the India A team. He should have been picked for the Zimbabwe tour. We’re making the mistake of picking players for ODIs based on their IPL performance but bowling 10 overs and four is completely different.
As for the batting, India had the momentum in the first 10 overs and then they lost it. Maybe, sending Yusuf out when Sri Lankan spinners were bowling in tandem would have made more sense on that wicket. We needed someone to get a 20-ball 50.
Also, someone like Dinesh, who’s batted in the middle for India, would probably have been useful in the games in Barbados, given his ability to play the rising ball. India have to address the problem — either ensure that the guys in the team adapt to the bouncing ball or pick people who can play it.
Looking ahead, with the major players being rested for Zimbabwe, it’s a good time to reflect on our approach to T20 internationals, now part and parcel of international tours. India seem confused about their T20 plans but have to be clear about game selection and who fits into what role.
And finally of course, there’s the mindset issue. Despite knowing fully well what we needed to get before the game, we couldn’t — Sri Lanka didn’t look at getting 143, they looked at winning. They were not defensive and that’s where they got it right.
Their positive mindset was the difference between them and India, as evidenced by what Dhoni said after the loss to the West Indies. “We’ll play Lanka and go home.”
India seemed already resigned to the fact that they were out and that was unacceptable. Whether you have a one per cent chance or half a per cent, you have to grab it with both hands. There’s some soul-searching to do.