When Rishabh Pant took to the racket at the Adelaide Oval Thursday night, the unfairness of his situation couldn’t be ignored. He only played his second match in T20 Globalism Cup, semi-final to boot, 12 balls to go, and India On the brink of a substandard degree.
In his five-plus-year T20I career, Pant ranked sixth in just three rounds out of 54. His first time was in his debut – the other two happened this year, first in the Asian Cup, then in the semi-finals. He does not need a deeper analysis to say that he is not suitable for this final role. Why was he given this task?
Well, in a random change of heart, team management picked a pant over Dinesh Karthik in the semi-finals. After that, she decided not to take advantage of Pant’s firepower against England in the middle, and instead asked him to take on a role assigned for months to someone else. Truth told, this wasn’t really Pant’s job but Karthik’s job. After months of trials, going forward with this pointless strategy, team management deemed Karthik’s final role to be pointless when it was so important.
While it’s surprising to think that Yuzvendra Chahal didn’t get a single match in the T20 World Cup, this Karthik saga is even more impressive. At least from the angle of rotation, there is an explanation coming. How can anyone explain this Karthik anomaly though? Over the past six months, the team’s management – led by captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid – has acknowledged an attacking mindset, bolstered by having someone like Karthik in a final role. While many argued against it, management stuck to its guns of playing a single hitter who only faced 10-15 deliveries in a game at most.
So, it was all for nothing? On what basis did Karthik get a chance at the T20 World Cup? Sending a generic thank-you note to Rohit Sharma in the middle of this tournament looked like a kid who’d wanted to visit Disneyland all his life, and suddenly got a free, all-expenses-paid ride. This defies cricket’s logic, or even common sense.
This resulted in India losing a major match to England. Yes, management did not want to disable the current swiping command. But if you’re knocking about a strategic change, why would you make a half-enthusiastic job at it? Pant was decisive against the likes of Adil Rashid and William Livingston on shorter square boundary grounds. By then, he had reached the crease, they were off attacking, having shot seven times for 41 throws. The game was over, there and then.
Keep in mind that this wasn’t the only major reason for India’s embarrassing World Cup exit. No, instead this was an explanation in microcosm of the distress that had appeared long ago, but it could not be determined. Or maybe no one wanted to get to know her.
The rot started from the top, as KL Rahul was unable to balance attack and defense in the same roles. No one, not even a coach, could help him break the ice between the differentiated demands of the IPL and the national duties. While Rahul’s World Cup troubles are a staggering lack of self-awareness, Rohit Sharma’s form faltered throughout as well. Meanwhile, the pant has been positioned as a spare opener. But how can the captain be excluded?
You see India’s problems have no definitive solution, except to talk about an offensive mentality that never materialized. Record India’s top ranking at 6/over in powerplay through six World Cup runs. The two holes averaged 14.66 in six runs in this tournament – 88 times from 106 balls opposing. What is an attack mentality, you might ask?
From 2021 to 2022, nothing much has changed except for putting paper over the cracks. Suryakumar Yadav has become the fulcrum of India’s beating, but even he can only do much in the absence of support from the highest levels. However, India’s striking squad from last year’s World Cup has largely remained the same – Rahul and Rohit opened again, followed by Kohli and the rest, including the absent-minded DK experience. Expecting a different result despite similar procedures amounts to insanity.
At the other end of the spectrum was the sheer madness of Joss Butler and Alex Hales. Granted they would attack India in Powerplay, but score 63-0 when India only managed 38-1? He confirmed India’s ineffectiveness with the new ball on the same ground as Litton Das also mocked this attack last week. By halfway through, Butler’s Hals had 100 on the board. The thought of its acceleration further from this point underscores how embarrassing India can be at night.
This Bangladeshi game leads to a vital but essential conclusion. It is about learning from one’s mistakes. Previously, Ireland defeated England in the MCG with some solid kicks in the first 10 times, and the English have responded with fireworks in powerplays ever since. Do you remember the match against Sri Lanka? Butler-Hales scored 70-0 at Powerplay in Sydney. It was a sign of things to come.
But India did not learn from its mistakes against Bangladesh. When Das broke up Bovneshwar Kumar and Muhammad Shami, he was left out on a day off and not due to the fact that this duo doesn’t have a Plan B. Enough in this format?
Moreover, despite the poor record, India continued to use the finger deer throughout this tournament. Chahal didn’t play a game which was a surprise – an understatement – given that England used two wrist deer to choke India in the semi-finals played against short frontiers.
Lying between these two extremes of poor batting and bowling performances, the India Championship was compelling with the return of Virat Kohli and his magic strike against Pakistan, and Suryakumar Yadav’s growing influence. Those were just two bright sparks in a poor show. Unless, of course, you count the victories over the Netherlands and Zimbabwe as bonus points, or another appearance in the semi-finals is a goal achieved, that is.
The truth could not be hidden for long, though, certainly not after such an embarrassment. The stars of the current T20 (if you can still name them) are living on a pre-existing reputation. Determinant thinking is outdated and the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry should bring a renewal of the shortest form. The IPL may be the richest league, its gameplay may be amazing, but India’s T20I aspirations refuse to take advantage of it on the world stage.
And as England gleefully demonstrated, Indian T20I cricket is miles behind.