India schooled by England in semi-final

Nov 10, 2022 10:17 PM IST

Top order’s conservative starts finally catch up with India as England win by 10 wickets.

As the lights slowly went out at the Adelaide Oval after a sobering night for India, videos of an emotional Rohit Sharma—a stoic-looking Rahul Dravid by his side—were going viral on social media. He is distraught, speechless and downright inconsolable. Sharma has seen quite a few highs and lows. But no defeat could have been as numbing as this. Only one team showed up at the game on Thursday night. India, after all their year-long talk of playing fearless cricket, were schooled by England as their World Cup campaign ended in a whimper.

England's Captain Jos Buttler (L) and Alex Hales celebrate their win after the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 semi-final cricket match between England and India at The Adelaide Oval(AFP)
England's Captain Jos Buttler (L) and Alex Hales celebrate their win after the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 semi-final cricket match between England and India at The Adelaide Oval(AFP)

To be hammered by 10 wickets in a World Cup semi-final is a slap in the face. But let this deflating defeat, the carefully sorted bouquet of bilateral tours in the coming months or the IPL auctions in December not distract you from the bigger reality: India have a mindset problem. How else do you explain such a bunch of IPL superstars faltering in the semi-finals every time in the last four World Cups—2015, 2016, 2019 and now?

Sharma admitted they were "a little nervy". "You can't really go and teach how to handle pressure,” he said after the match. “All these guys have played enough cricket to understand that. I mean, look, a lot of these guys when they come out and play in the playoffs in the IPL and all of that, it's a high-pressure game, some of these guys are able to handle that. When it comes to the knockout stages, it's all about handling that pressure. Holding yourself a little bit and keeping calm. I thought the way we started off with the ball was not ideal. That shows we were a little nervy to start off with the ball, but again we've got to give credit to those openers as well, they played really well."

Losing the toss was never a good sign in the first place. But the start was even more baffling. Between Sharma, Rahul and Kohli, India played 73 balls, scoring just 72 runs. England crossed that mark in the 41st ball of their innings. India scored 100 in the first 15 overs, adding 68 in the last five purely because of Pandya’s genius. But England had reached 98 by the halfway mark. The difference in game awareness also stood out in how England kept hitting the shorter square boundaries better than India.

"We wanted to keep it tight, not give room, we looked at Adelaide pretty well, we know where the runs are scored,” said Sharma. “Square of the wicket is what we were quite aware of, and that's where all the runs went today.”

England’s bowlers were far more disciplined, starting with Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran in the first three overs. By the last over of the powerplay, Adil Rashid was bowling with guile and precision, conceding just 20 runs and picking the valuable wicket of Yadav. There was a clear intent on not giving India any pace to work with. But when India started defending, Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled seventh stump lines before overcompensating and straying towards Buttler’s leg. The England captain picked three easy fours and a wide.

England were away and Alex Hales rubbed it in well, sweeping and pulling India’s bowlers at will. Dropped catches, misfields galore, listless bowling, India looked tired and defeated even before the bell finally sounded.

Overhaul needed

Let’s also not shy away from the fact that India’s T20 game needs an urgent top-down overhaul, starting with the trio of Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli. That India were turning a blind eye to the root of the problem was apparent in how the top-three were being shielded while the rest of the batting was being shuffled around. Kohli found his touch and channelled his genius into a nerve-wracking win against Pakistan at the MCG but barring that effort it has either been Suryakumar Yadav or Hardik Pandya to the rescue. And both don’t get to bat till almost the backend of the innings.

Australia’s unique conditions—India have never played here at this time of the year—were offered as a reason for the slow starts. But when you see England’s openers blaze away to an unbeaten partnership of 170 runs you start wondering if something was amiss. The overhead conditions hadn’t changed drastically. England captain Jos Buttler later said the pitch too hadn’t changed much. “Obviously there was a little bit of spin in the wicket when you drove it into the surface, but I thought it was a good wicket,” he said.

Where is it going wrong then? India’s experiments with their batting always excluded Sharma, Rahul and Kohli. There was no attempt to give Rishabh Pant or Deepak Hooda, who showed such promise with a quick hundred against Ireland, a higher position and long-term backing. Sharma normally reserves his best for the ICC events. Not this time. Rahul, it emerged, has the following scores in T20 World Cups against the top eight teams: 3(8 balls) vs Pakistan (Dubai), 18(16) vs New Zealand (Dubai), 4(8) vs Pakistan (Melbourne), 9(14) vs South Africa (Perth) before he was dismissed for 5(5) on Thursday. And Kohli the chaser is poles apart from Kohli the first innings anchor.

The planning was dubious as well. What was the point of selecting Yuzvendra Chahal if he doesn’t get a game on Australian pitches that are offering turn and bounce? When Mark Wood, Lockie Ferguson and Naseem Shah were breathing fire, India were opening with the medium pace of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh. Mohammed Shami too was left in cold storage for almost a year. Dinesh Karthik was being protected from spinners in middle overs while Pant was left cooling his heels before he was suddenly summoned, Axar Patel was getting games because he could bat—nothing about how India prepared and ultimately played looked right. And it was bound to hurt one day.

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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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