Understandably, there is a hue and cry over India's loss in the finals of World T20 against Sri Lanka in Dhaka. What's more, Yuvraj Singh is now deemed the villain.
How fickle are we, the fans! Yuvraj was the toast of the nation three years ago when he won the World Cup, only the second time after 1983 by his exploits with bat and ball for which he was adjudged the Player of the Tournament by some distance.
Couple of years before, Yuvraj had done something which has never been seen in a World Cup match or in any format when he reeled off 6 consecutive sixes in an over off England's Stuart Broad.
Few cricketers have seen such highs and lows in life. And how! Before the success of World Cup could sink in, he was battling for life threatening cancer. Yuvraj fought this one too with tremendous courage and came back to cricket, to the thunderous applause of cricket fans, colleagues and fellow-cricketers all over the world. Lot of people thought he was rushed in rather early. Though Yuvraj knows his body well, he hasn't got back to his groove as before with sharpness of fielding and catching that made him much dreaded fielder at cover-point.
What went wrong in Dhaka in India's quest for a cricketing grand slam after Champions Trophy and the 2011 ODI World Cup? Sri Lanka bowled and fielded very well restricting India to a low score and richly deserved the Cup for the first time in T20.
There are several reasons for India's off-colour performance that cost them the Cup.
1. India had mastered chasing runs which are more difficult than batting first and putting runs on the board. Most teams prefer and pundits advise that batting first on a pitch is the best thing to do and set a competitive score for the opposition. Batting second adds to the lower bounce, the pressure of chasing and keeping a high run rate throughout the match. Most teams cave in due to galloping suffocating run rate towards the end finding it hard to keep the wickets. India, on the other hand, time and again chased any score keeping the momentum going till the end.
India had only once batted first in the tournament against Australia in the group stages. Trying something new in a final has its own hazards. An off-form batsman, couple of run-outs, few tight overs, all could hamper the apple-cart. India did not have enough practice on batting first and counter the imponderables that could go wrong and will go wrong. It is like being dependent only on one route for the battleships and closing all other options. Trying out other options, like batting first after qualifying for semis would have served them prepare better for the finals.
2. India should have made other batsmen in the hut get some match-practice after it qualified for the knockout. There is a problem with winning all the matches easily, as all the players do not get to bowl or bat! You have to ensure all your battleships are well tuned, oiled and not rusty! Dhoni himself did not have sufficient match practice which was evident when he could not fire in a crunch situation.
3. Easy wins are good but it doesn't help in adversity. Sometimes hard and well fought wins keep you on your toes and such wins helps in times of trouble ahead. Untested bows and arrows may not contribute much in times of need.
4. Dhoni is known for making some astute and out-of-the-box decisions. In the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka in Wankhede, Dhoni came ahead of Yuvraj, a decision that could have gone either way. Dhoni trusted his instincts and steered his side to victory. Not without basis captains and bowlers realise he is the most feared batsman at death, due to his proven ability to score heavily against any attack.
So was his decision to make Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over against Pakistan in the 2007 T20 World Cup in South Africa. Pakistan took the rookie lightly and lost the match they should have won, by playing him recklessly. Such moves are missing off late and predictability has taken over.
5. Are India back to the days of 1980's and 1990's when they were dependent on little master Sachin Tendulkar? Virat Kohli is the new 'little master', scoring heavily in all formats of the game. This over dependence is clearly visible to opponents that India will fold up if they can get Kohli out. This was even evident in the finals when Malinga failed to hold Kohli's catch. India would have been in a sorry state had the catch been taken.
No doubt it would have been great had India won the final after winning all the previous matches in the tournament. That was even the expectation. But such is the game of cricket, in any format, it confounds fans and pundits alike and that is why it remains the most popular game driving people from ecstasy to agony!
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