A target of 193 to win a world cup SEMI-FINAL and an asking rate of 9.65 runs-per-over from the word go, for the side chasing. Surely, such a total is sufficient on any day. But… this is T20 cricket: the most exciting and unpredictable format of the game. And that is exactly how it turned out on Thursday night, when West Indies made a mockery of the target set by India and won by 7 wickets.
Pressure game, your main man back in the hut in just the second over of the innings, required run-rate continues to rise, the whole world thinks it’s going to be an India v England final… and then, you go and win by 7 wickets, with two balls to spare.
It’s the margin and manner of West Indies’ victory, which appalled the Indian cricketing public and I am sure, most people who witnessed the game would have felt the same way as well.
On a flat Wankhede pitch, West Indies had the batting firepower to make up for their weak bowling attack. Chris Gayle, at the top of the order, was the main man we all thought. Yes, the likes of Andre Russell, Johnson Charles and the incoming Lendl Simmons are no slouches, but they have yet to taste the kind of success the big Jamaican already has in Twenty20 International (T20I) cricket. So, at the start of the West Indian innings, MS Dhoni and company, I can assure you, would have taken the task at hand seriously despite posting 192 on the board. To India’s and Jasprit Bumrah’s credit, though, Gayle was dismissed cheaply for 5 (6) in just the second over of the innings.
His wicket tilted the game in India’s favour and while Marlon Samuels was at the crease, the world T20 2016’s hosts were in complete control of proceedings. Samuels played and missed a lot of deliveries and was not willing to get in line of any of them either. He never gave you the impression that he was going to play a substantial knock and he did perish for just 8 (7), with Ashish Nehra getting his wicket.
India would not want to remember whatever that happened thereafter. But, they could have done a few things differently and made sure that the Windies did not overhaul the target of 193.
ICC World Twenty20 2016, India v West Indies
Most people would point their fingers at the dual lives afforded to Simmons by Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya through their no-balls while the Mumbai Indian was on 18 and 50 respectively – as a major reason for India’s defeat. West Indies were 49/2 when Ashwin over-stepped and handed Simmons his first reprieve of the night. The 2012 world T20 winners were at a vastly better position – 131/3 in the 15th over – when Simmons was given a second life by Pandya.
Now, this was the first time in their world T20 2016 campaign, that everything went against, and not for, India. They had a bit of luck in their win against Bangladesh, although you cannot completely discredit them for hanging in there and forcing errors off Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah. Against Australia too, they came back strongly after being taken for plenty of runs in the powerplay overs. But here, on a bigger stage and against a better T20 side than Australia, India felt the pressure and did not recover from the errors they committed earlier.
The first error they committed, even before the toss, was sticking to the combination of two fast bowlers, two spinners and an all-rounder. This combination worked for four games, and it was India’s bowling, which saved them from being ousted at the Super 10 stage. But on a true Wankhede pitch with an even covering of grass, I wonder why Dhoni did not consider playing someone like Mohammed Shami, especially when he had the luxury to.
Yuvraj Singh was ruled out after he had sustained an ankle injury while batting against Australia in India’s last group game, leaving a place vacant for another player to come in. And, rationally, it need not have been a batsman. On a good batting pitch, you can trust your batsmen to deliver and should ideally be bolstering your bowling attack to tackle and stifle the opposition batting line-up. I staunchly feel that Dhoni should have shown a bit more tactical flexibility and given Yuvraj’s replacement a good thought before handing over the team sheet to the match referee.
Shami has not played for India since the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. But, with a greasy ball and the wicket offering good pace and bounce, he could well have given India the control in the middle overs of the West Indies’ innings. Dhoni does have confidence in Pandya’s abilities and has considered him as an all-rounder. But barring in a couple of games, most notably in the second T20I against Australia at the MCG in January and against the same opposition in Mohali last Sunday, Pandya has failed to deliver with the ball. Yes, the 22-year-old held his nerve in the pivotal last over against Bangladesh and conceded just nine runs when defending 11. Overall, though, his bowling has been found wanting. That is the reason why Shami should have been considered and included in the playing XI, in place of the injured Yuvraj.
Secondly, and more significantly, Dhoni failed to get his ‘field’ right for all his bowlers. West Indies hit 11 sixes in their successful run chase against India, who could have stopped just one of them and actually got a wicket off. And had you seen the death overs of the Windies’ innings, I am sure you would need no reminding of where I am coming from.
However, there were as many as nine fours hit in the West Indies innings, through the gap between cover point, which was inside the circle, and a straight-ish sweeper cover. Simmons in particular, feasted on the unusual naivety exuded by the talismanic Indian skipper, as he carved the ball through that yawning gap all evening long. Can you believe that five of the seven boundaries hit by Simmons, were through the cover region and India and Dhoni did nothing about it? Even in the penultimate over of the innings, with the Windies needing 12 runs off seven balls and Simmons facing Jadeja, India failed to prevent a boundary which brought the equation down to eight runs off the last over.
India were also made to pay for having the third-man inside the circle throughout the West Indies innings. Simmons kept miscuing his attempted cover and square drives, either lofted or along the carpet, but kept finding the boundary by managing to miss the fielder at short third-man. You can say that Simmons and West Indies were lucky in such ways and a bit of fortune did play a part in Darren Sammy’s men progressing to tomorrow’s finals. But the lack of a proper thought behind the field placing was rather stark.
It was ironic that on a day when the Indian batting line-up came good, the bowlers failed to continue the good work they had been doing since the start of India’s world T20 2016 campaign against New Zealand. But Dhoni and the Indian think-tank should have considered playing Shami at the Wankhede. And then, Dhoni, I strongly believe, could have done better with his field placing. Why do I say that? Yes, Simmons was afforded width by the Indian bowlers, allowing him to free his arms. So Dhoni should have factored in his bowlers’ inaccurate bowling on the night and also, offered them more protection on the off-side.