Team India’s inglorious and humiliating exit from the second consecutive World T20 Cup would not have surprised even the most die hard Indian supporters. The portents were there right from the time the team was announced mid way through IPL 3.Players like Piyush Chawla,Ravindra Jadeja,Murali Vijay,Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma,who had indifferent or just adequate IPL 3 were selected not only on reputation but because of their reputed connections with the powers that be…The Captain and the Chief Selector.
Players like Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu,Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra who had showcased their talent in abundance were left in the lurch simply because the Captain and his cronies in the selection panel did not deem them good enough.
Added to this farcical team selection was the mysterious ‘injury’ for the second T20 World Cup in a row,after England 2009, to India’s most destructive player in all forms of cricket, the venerable Virender Sehwag.Is it just a strange coincidence or quirk of fate that after playing most of the matches of IPL 3 ,Sehwag pulled out of the World Cup without suffering from any obvious on field injury. Somewhat similar occurrence had happened just before the last T20 World Cup in 2009.
There have been on and off media reports and speculations about serious differences between the Captain and Vice Captain and of Delhi coterie versus Dhoni coterie and one hopes that this was not one of the reason why Sehwag was absent from this world cup.
The team won its two group games against Afghanistan and S Africa, but never looked in a sparkling form and lacked the cohesiveness of a crack unit looking to best the World.
The mysterious stomach bug that afflicted Gautam Gambhir and rendered him hors de combat for an important match, the almost zombie like demeanor of Yuvraj Singh while batting and fielding, persistence with out- of- match- practice Jadeja and fit for Indian pitches only player M Vijay, turned out to be the biggest chinks in the Indian armor, under utilization of performer like Pravin Kumar followed by his pull out from the tournament due to injury were just some of the bizarre instances that sabotaged India’s short lived and botched campaign.
In the Super Eight matches against Australia and W Indies, the batsmen especially so called big guns like Gambhir, Vijay,Raina,Yuvraj and Pathan were caught out of their depth against some hostile fast bowling and mostly got out fending short pitched deliveries angled into their bodies. India lost both the matches rather tamely.
A similar strategy had been employed by India’s opponents in the 2009, T20 World Cup in England with virtually similar results.
In the final must-win match against Sri Lanka after being 90 for 1 at half way mark India lost their way against both the slow and medium pace bowlers, could muster only 163 in 20 overs and then bowled and fielded shoddily with neither heart nor purpose to lose by 5 wickets, unable to defend 13 runs in the final over and 3 of the final ball which was hit for a six.
In the critical phase of the tournament, the team could neither chase nor defend successfully. When push came to shove, India were pushed as well as shoved away from the competition. After each defeat the millions of cricket crazy followers kept waiting for that elusive team India victory which ultimately never transpired leaving a feeling of deja vu or having being taken for a ride once again.
Some media reports suggest that Skipper Dhoni is blaming the after match IPL parties for the lack luster performance. This is laughable and akin to a school boy saying he failed the all important exams as there was a party at home so he could neither study nor sleep.
Like the captain of a ship,Skipper Dhoni is fully responsible for the performance of his players and if they have been consistently found wanting at the international level it is a reflection of his own judgment and performance as a Captain and player.
After the come from behind title victory in the inaugural T20 World Cup, Indian team lead by MS Dhoni has really struggled in this format of the game and needs to do a reality check to be acknowledged as a truly great team in all formats of the game.
They can perhaps take inspiration from the Australian team which failed to make even the Super Eight stage in the last World cup, did its homework in the interim, got rid of the non performers including the ageing but inspirational Ricky Ponting and is now the only undefeated team in this World Cup and favorites to lift the only World Cup which has eluded them so far.