T20 World Cup: What went wrong for India against Pakistan

T20 World Cup: Some would say the law of averages caught up with India in Dubai on Sunday night but the truth is that a number of factors, including the brilliance of Shaheen Afridi and the clinical Pakistan top order, caught them unawares.
Top teams are loath to introspect too much after a first-game defeat in a tournament like this but a look internally wouldn’t hurt India ahead of their next game against New Zealand.
Some selection choices may have gone against them in the 10-wicket defeat. Some bowlers looked undercooked. Some batsmen are yet to embrace the team’s new, aggressive T20 philosophy. Some may have been on the road far too long. Some uncontrollables too went against them on Sunday.

“We know exactly how the game went and where it went wrong and we have absolute clarity on that,” captain Virat Kohli admitted. “If we stick to the processes we follow we definitely feel we can overcome these mistakes.”

These are the uncontrollables which went against India on Sunday. Since these factors are expected to be a constant throughout, what can India do to wrest back the initiative if they lose the toss and are forced to bowl in Dubai?
The IPL, of course, was a pointer and India should have already worked out the contingencies. Of the 13 IPL matches played in Dubai this season, 9 were won by the team batting second, including 8 in succession between September 27 and October 10. Of these 9, 7 were won by the side winning the toss.

Once you lose the toss in Dubai, the odds are against you. Pick a spin-heavy bowling department and they might fumble to grip the ball in the late evening dew. Pick a seam-friendly attack and they can go for runs once the ball stops gripping. “More dew came in towards the second half. They were able to rotate strike. We could not even get dot balls in because the pitch was providing a bit more pace for the batsmen to work with. The slower balls were not holding up. These small factors make a massive difference,” Kohli said. “Toss is going to be a factor if the dew keeps creeping in.”
The solution is elegantly simple and Kohli himself offered the answer: “You need those extra runs in the first half.” Is there a case for the likes of Kohli himself, who anchored the innings with a 57, to notch up the strike rate from the existing 116.32?

It now seems the selectors picked Bhuvneshwar Kumar purely on reputation. The seamer is increasingly looking like a spent force. An IPL economy rate of 7.97 with only 6 wickets from 11 games may have disguised the extent of his decline but against top opposition his lack of pace (he bowled largely in the mid-120s vs Pak) is a drawback.
Kohli handed the first over to him in the hope that he could find some swing like Afridi did. The first ball did swing but Bhuvi’s lack of pace and a tendency to stray down leg with full deliveries played into Pakistan’s hands. The first over yielded 10 and it was Bumrah who came in for the third over.
Bhuvi went wicketless, at 8.33, from his three overs but Kohli’s troubles didn’t end there: Mohammed Shami went for 43 (ER 11.21), bringing us to the elephant in the room: did the selectors err in not picking form bowlers from the IPL? Why wasn’t the IPL’s top wicket-taker Harshal Patel selected? Why not Avesh Khan? Could Arshdeep’s left-arm medium pace and different angle have been useful? India still had a 53% chance of winning at the innings break after recovering to post 151/7, so the bowling definitely needs a re-look.

This isn’t just a case for Shardul’s presence with the ball, which is always handy, but with the bat too: with Ravindra Jadeja failing to break the shackles in his 13-ball stay and Hardik Pandya too unable to force the issue, could Shardul have come in to tonk a few sixes?
Six-hitting superiority is increasingly the defining factor: In 2016 India hit a six every 27 balls but by 2019 that had come down to 16 balls, so the team recognises this need. Perhaps this explains Pandya’s presence in the team as a pure batter, but isn’t the tail just too long without Shardul in the mix?
Hardik fun fact: Pandya has been dismissed 13 times by bouncers since the last T20 World Cup, averages 16 against the short ball and is dismissed, according to Cricviz, once every 9 bouncers. More food for thought? Ishan Kishan, anyone?

Kohli got testy with a journalist when asked if the inform Kishan could have been somehow included in the mix up the order, asking if there was “any way” Rohit Sharma could have been dropped. Once India were reduced to 1/1 with Sharma’s golden duck, then 6/2 and then 31/3 with Suryakumar’s dismissal, Pakistan had the psychological edge.
In the 2017 Champions Trophy final too, India had been reduced to 33/3, with Rohit falling for a three-ball duck to a similar vicious inswinger from Mohammad Amir. And what of the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, when India were reduced to 5/3?
Sunday was also the 10th time India lost 3 wickets inside the Powerplay since the last T20 World Cup. They have lost on seven of those occasions. “I just wish they (critics) could put on a cricket kit and enter the field and understand what pressure is,” Kohli said.

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