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ICC World Cup T20: India vs WI, after the storm

Even Virat Kohli's heroics were not enough to save India from the perils of a rampaging West Indies, a flat track and listless performances from key bowlers

Icc World T20

Dhruv Munjal  |  Mumbai 

West Indies' players celebrate the victory during ICC WT20 Semi Final match against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. PTI Photo
West Indies' players celebrate the victory during ICC WT20 Semi Final match against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. PTI Photo

Luck has its own cruel way of hitting back. On Thursday, Lendl Simmons could have so easily bought himself a lottery ticket and won. Or invested in the stock market and garnered staggering returns. Or tried to tightrope across the Niagara Falls blindfolded and still succeed. It was just one of those days.

On any other day, Ravichandran Ashwin would have bowled a legal delivery and Simmons would have walked back; the West Indies would have stunningly capitulated and India would have sauntered into the final of the Instead, India got him out thrice but he still batted on, dispassionately obliterating anything in sight. And you thought Virat Kohli – who escaped getting run out twice – was lucky. Fortune had favoured India’s best batsman and then sent them crashing out.

After Marlon Samuels had timidly chipped an innocuous Ashish Nehra delivery to Ajinkya Rahane at mid-off early in the Windies chase, this was taking the shape of another vintage performance from India. Jasprit Bumrah had already sent Chris Gayle packing with a stupefying in-swinging yorker. Gayle and Samuels – West Indies’ two most dangerous batsmen – gone and victory seemed a mere formality. A couple of more wickets and India had it. Just that they did not.

Johnson Charles and Simmons, who till a few days ago was cooling his heels at home, stitched together a marvellous partnership that snatched the game away from India even before they knew it. Balls were sent crashing into the fence and soaring into the twinkling Mumbai skyline with disquieting regularity. As the night darkened and the fervour dimmed, the crowd at the Wankhede Stadium slumped into silence. Mahendra Singh Dhoni stood behind the stumps with hands on hips, so often frantically waving his arms like a traffic cop trying to get the attention of his men in the outfield. It was just not to be. After a point, the inevitability of an Indian exit was startlingly apparent.

The curious case of Hardik Pandya

In the run-up to this semi-final, the Indian bowling had been remarkably consistent. India had conceded 160 or more just once – against Australia in Mohali. In Mumbai, the Indian bowling was greeted by a flat track; the kind bowlers spend hours toiling on in first-class matches and end up with figures of zillion for one. Nagpur, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Mohali were all kind. Mumbai was anything but. And the weaknesses were brutally exposed.

No one bore the brunt of the Windies’ assault quite like Hardik Pandya. It was only a matter of time before Pandya’s strange romance with bowling short at middling speeds ended in disaster. The 22-year-old was listless and predictable, going for 43 in his four overs. This relationship is well and truly over. Pandya needs to start afresh.

Was it necessary to play Pandya? Maybe not. Dhoni seldom fiddles with a winning combination but this one needs serious introspection. India went into this game with six specialist batsmen. Add to that Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin, both of whom are more than handy with the bat. Pandya plays in this side purely as an all-rounder but rarely gets to bat. And, his performances with the ball, quite frankly, have been atrocious. One wonders how many batsmen Dhoni actually needs. Had the Indian skipper opted for a specialist seamer such as Mohammed Shami or Bhuvneshwar Kumar against the West Indies, the outcome may have been very different.

Ashwin goes missing, again

Against Australia earlier in the year, Dhoni, much to the dismay of fans and former players, dropped Ashwin for a couple of one-day international games. Now we know why. On any pitch offering turn and bounce, Ashwin is a spinning colossus, often bordering on the unplayable. On tracks such as the Wankhede, he is a meek lamb waiting to be slaughtered.

Dhoni didn’t bowl him for more than two overs on Thursday, the same number he bowled against Australia in the crunch game at Mohali last Sunday. Not the kind of stuff you expect from your frontline spinner.

Jadeja, his spin partner, was equally erratic. With no turn available, Jadeja was ruthlessly taken to the cleaners, giving away 48 in his four. The ineffectiveness of the spinners meant that Dhoni had to bowl out Bumrah and Nehra early, leaving the last few overs to the slower bowlers. The due had its effect but this was a poor, undisciplined bowling effort from India on a day when they had a huge total to bowl at.

The brilliance of Virat Kohli

Much before despondency engulfed the capacity partisan crowd at the Wankhede, Kohli had yet again dazzled and amazed, playing a scorching knock of 89 – executed with unmatched power and poise. After Rohit Sharma set India on their way, Kohli took over, first forging a partnership with Rahane and then launching an astonishing assault at the summit – helping India to 192. Despite India’s somewhat premature exit, this tournament will forever will be remembered for Kohli pushing the test of batting endurance to paranormal levels.

On Thursday, India were beaten by a better side. For so long against the West Indies, they thought they had the opposition. But that’s what makes the T20 game such a tantalising affair; a pulsating three hours that fluctuate impetuously. India just could not live with that. The boys from the Caribbean are on the charge. England had better watch out.

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First Published: Fri, April 01 2016. 11:15 IST