IND vs ENG T20 World Cup semi-final preview: Time for India's process to yield results

Nov 09, 2022 09:32 PM IST

The year-long experiments must now shape the fate of Rohit Sharma's team as they face England in T20 World Cup semi-final.

“Process” has been a yearlong undertaking now. It has unleashed upon us the stunning range of Suryakumar Yadav, made us alive to the thrilling potential of Arshdeep Singh’s swing, carved a proper all-rounder out of Hardik Pandya, kept switching between Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant and prompted Virat Kohli to change his game. Now is the time to put everything to test, or as Jos Buttler said, “To achieve tangible things” while playing a great brand of cricket. England have been there, done that, in the greatest ever one-dayer ever played. They probably are a bit more relaxed while seeking their T20 high. But India? You sense deliberate caution, sometimes to the extent of denial, in the way they are looking at this T20 World Cup semi-final.

India's Captain Rohit Sharma (R) departs after his dismissal as Virat Kohli walk onto the field(AFP)
India's Captain Rohit Sharma (R) departs after his dismissal as Virat Kohli walk onto the field(AFP)

"I think knockout games are important. We do understand that. It's a simple logic to it, knockout games, because you get to play only once and there's only one opportunity to do well in that knockout game," said India captain Rohit Sharma at their press conference. "But for us, I think, not just for me, but for the players, what they've done in their entire career doesn't define them by just one knockout game. The entire year you work so hard to get where you want to and to do well in whichever format you play. So that one particular game is not going to decide that. I think it's important we do understand the importance of knockout, but at the same time, it's also important to realise and understand what sort of effort you put in the entire year to come to that stage."

You get it. Not since the 2017 Champions Trophy have India reached the final of any white-ball ICC event. There is a valid question mark hanging over their temperament in knockout games after their top order came a cropper in India’s last two ICC knockouts—the 2017 final and the 2019 World Cup semi-final. We have seen hesitation against quality fast bowling, on seaming pitches and while setting targets. And after a point in time, it seemed India were almost resigned to gaining rating points out of bilateral series wins and not fighting it out at World Cup knockouts.

England harbour a more practical view of the game—ready to lose as long as they also win something to be proud of. "I think we all want to win things, certainly don't want to be a team that just says we played a great style of cricket," Buttler said. "You want to have tangible things that you have achieved throughout that, as well. Getting to the semi-finals and final, the big prize is obviously standing there with the trophy at the end of the game, and that's what we all want to achieve. But we know that the way we play is going to give us the best chance of doing that.”

Both teams are powerhouses of white-ball cricket. It was here, in Adelaide, where England had slumped to defeat to Bangladesh to be knocked out in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup. What followed was nothing short of a mini revolution. Aggregated data mining, SWOT analysis, match-ups—these words became familiar when England started pushing the envelope and reimagining the game. India followed suit, perfecting the tenets of the format in the IPL. But the good habits learned there haven’t been put to use with the national team. Now is a perfect time to change it.

And India could begin by not being shackled by their players’ individual worth. For too long, too much thought has gone into the top three. It took Suryakumar Yadav to tell them there are ways to bat, and then there are ways to dominate and just take off with the game. It’s a sign of regression that from being a team that had quite a few decent backup bowling options in the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh even a decade back, India now have to sit out Yuzvendra Chahal because they must accommodate a spinner who can bat. Hardik Pandya is under pressure to bowl his full quota because none of the top-order batting specialists are willing to bowl. The indecision on Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant too has long stopped being intriguing. It remains a selection quandary, considering the length Pant spent at nets on Wednesday.

India still have managed to cover up their gaps pretty well. Chasing is their suit. And even though they came to this World Cup without Jasprit Bumrah and threatening to bat like they have never had, the conditions prompted what must have been a relieving rethink. Quite a few other things have worked out well too. Virat Kohli has run into serious form, Arshdeep has proven his mettle in slog overs and Ravichandran Ashwin is now pulling short balls for sixes.

They need not do anything different from what they have been doing so far but that it’s a big game was evident from the turnout at their pre-match training. Kohli was pinged in the groin by Harshal Patel as batters took throwdowns. Bowlers ran in full tilt while Yadav and Arshdeep focused on stretching and conditioning on the main ground. The mood wasn’t different from what you get in any other match. Only, there is no second chance this time. The process has to yield a result.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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