Probably the one man in the Wankhede crowd who could best understand Virat Kohli’s frustration at the end of Thursday’s game would be Sachin Tendulkar. When at the peak of his career, in the 1990s, Tendulkar came up with one gem after another, but many of them ended in a losing cause. It came to a point when his ability as a matchwinner started to be questioned.
In the semifinal of the ICC World T20 Cup, Kohli hardly put a foot wrong, but his breathtaking effort of 89 not out , will now have a seven-wicket defeat in the results column.
The star Indian batsman fielded with resolve, even provided the team with a vital breakthrough when they were struggling to control the 97-run fourth-wicket partnership between Johnson Charles and Lendl Simmons. Instead, Simmons, two times lucky to be caught off no balls, walked away with the man of the match award for his unbeaten 82.
Kohli had led the team’s chase against Pakistan and against Australia before helping India to a big total in the last-four clash. It was the same story at the last World T20 in 2014 in Bangladesh, where he powered the team to the final but had to endure a heartbreak after not getting the desired support in batting.
Against the West Indies, it was the bowling which let him and the team down.
Dew was a factor, making it difficult to grip the ball, but after having got the two dangermen of the West Indian batting -- Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels -- out early, India should have wrapped up the game. The two no balls proved highly costly where Simmons enjoyed reprieves after being caught on 18 and 50.
Fast bowlers overstepping the line is understood but it was the experienced off-spinner R Ashwin, who bowled the first no ball. With Gayle and Samuels already back in the hut, Simmons’ wicket at that stage (total was 49) would have made the pressure stifling for the West Indies.
“The only thing I’m disappointed about are the two no-balls (the second one was bowled by Hardik Pandya). Other than that we tried our best and even if the conditions were not in favour of the spinners, whatever resources we had we tried our best in the game,” said captain MS Dhoni.
As for the pace bowlers, Ashish Nehra had set the template by focusing on clever changes in his length and line. Pandya had to simply follow that. Instead, he seemed to get carried away by the occasion. On a flat wicket, his strategy to look for pace against the powerful West Indian batsmen was more of playing to the gallery than cricketing logic. A flashy character, it is something he will have to guard against and will do well to learn from S Sreesanth’s life story as to how it never pays off.
India had started the game on the backfoot when it lost the toss. Being a clear night, heavy dew was expected. They should have known, a cushion of 20 to 25 runs extra would be needed to neutralise the wet conditions, where gripping the ball is difficult. Ajinkya Rahane, drafted in place of Shikhar Dhawan, did well for himself with a 35-ball 40. But on a good batting surface, he needed to come up with more boundary hits than the two fours he scored. Rahane was unable to find the gap and add the power to beat the man on the boundaries, with most of his hits cut off at the ropes.
Dhoni called India’s total good enough, observing there was a risk involved to go for the extra 20 runs which could have left them defending even lesser.
“Thirty more (runs) would have been really nice. But you have to realise it was half an hour early start, a bad toss to lose, so when they started batting the first few overs were fine, but after that there was a considerable amount of dew which meant the spinner couldn’t bowl how they would have liked to. It was coming on nicely and the ball was getting wet, so that was the difference between the first innings and second innings, the surface had some assistance for the spinners, it was gripping but in the second innings there wasn’t much in it for them. It was quite difficult to score 190. We are saying 10-15 short based on the second innings but you have to analyse that the surface was completely different. If you’re looking for 210 in the first innings you may end up with 160 and on this wicket 160 becomes quite below par.”
The Indian captain also got his calculations wrong. Knowing that his spinners would find it difficult to grip the ball, he could have looked to bowl them upfront once Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah had given him the big early breakthroughs. He used Nehra for three straight overs at the start of the innings, and ended up using his main bowler Ashwin for only two overs.
Dhoni admitted his spinners tend to struggle in such conditions. “I think the spinners had some assistance, as I said, but as the dew comes in it becomes difficult for them to turn the ball. The seam gets wet and the surface becomes a bit greasy so it comes onto the bat nicely. I feel we have seen that our spinners do struggle in conditions like these. If you remember, in one of the T20 World Cups we were knocked out because of one bad game and in that game there was a bit of dew … or I don’t remember, maybe it was rain that got the ball wet, so that’s where our spinners find it difficult. It was quite evident. Ashwin only bowled two overs, Jadeja we were forced to bowl the last quota of his overs otherwise he would have only bowled three overs.”