One week after Pakistan thrashed India by ten wickets, the Men in Blue experienced the blues all over again.
New Zealand sailed past them with eight wickets in hand and 33 balls to spare in their second outing in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
India were one of the favourites before the start of the tournament. Two pathetic performances against quality teams in Group 2 have exposed their weaknesses in all departments. The Men in Blue, in short, should be out of the tournament without reaching the semi-finals.
Given the team’s current form with few exceptions, India should be challenged by Afghanistan who are on a high after winning two out of the three matches they have played so far. Minnows Namibia and Scotland ought to lose, but that won’t take India anywhere.
Nothing has gone right for Virat Kohli’s men. If they scored 151 for the loss of seven wickets against Pakistan, who overtook that target without breaking a sweat, they made 40 fewer runs after losing an equal number of wickets against the Black Caps.
Sending the gifted but inexperienced Ishan Kishan as an opener ahead of Rohit Sharma against New Zealand was a strategic error. Kishan did not last long. Few wickets fell quickly. An Indian defeat seemed inevitable halfway through the innings.
Neither Sharma nor Kohli managed to play a knock of substance. Rishabh Pant scratched around, as did Hardik Pandya. Ravindra Jadeja scored the highest with an unbeaten 19-ball 26, taking the score to 111 that simply wasn’t enough.
Among the bowlers, Varun Chakravarthy bowled an economical spell giving away 23 runs in his four overs without threatening to run through the opposition. Jasprit Bumrah gave away 19 runs in his quota, troubling the batsmen to pick up both wickets that fell. In the end, however, the target was too less.
India’s second loss showed, once again, that the team’s much-hyped batters are failing on the big stage. If Kohli and Pant put up some runs against Pakistan, nobody clicked against New Zealand. That is bad news with the match against the spirited Afghans a couple of days away.
Among the bowlers, Chakravarthy showed his ability to restrict in the second match. What he needs to do equally is pick up wickets while containing the run rate. Bumrah is a fine bowler but under pressure to deliver consistently. What the team needs most, however, is meaningful contributions with the ball from the others.
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup appears to be over for Team India. But the team must make an exit with a bit of dignity intact. Whether or not that will happen will be answered the day after.
(The author, Biswadeep Ghosh, can be reached at [email protected])