After their most disappointing T20 performance in recent memory against New Zealand a week ago, Virat Kohli was adamant in his assessment of his batting group’s approach. “Not brave enough,” was the phrase the Indian captain used to castigate a horribly tasteless display that brought in a total of 110 for seven in 20 overs.
With the certainty of the following night, a massive defeat ensued. It was not India’s first in the World Cup; it was difficult to decide which of the two – the undisputed ten-wicket beating to Pakistan or the loss of eight wickets to the Kiwis – was more debilitating.
As a rule, professional sport does not reward hesitation. He disapproves of shyness, he punishes shyness, he laughs at conservatism. It calls for determination, positivity, belief, hunger and ambition, fire and passion. It requires commitment to the cause, it encourages fearlessness, it secures energy and electricity.
India has embraced all of these positive traits and more over the past 10 months, most notably in the cricket test where they had a great time. It is as if they are being brought up by the theater of the long version, as if the romantic in them is put into action. In Australia earlier this year, at home to England immediately after, and at Old Blighty in the summer, they played such exhilarating cricket that the loss to New Zealand in the World Trials final seemed to be the aberration it was.
It’s not as if their abridged game has been less entertaining or rewarding. It’s just that at the time of the crisis, in an event the magnitude of the T20 World Cup, they hesitated badly not once but twice, pushing themselves closer to the exit door at the first request. .
If India still clings to the slightest thread of hope, it is above all because of the programming of the matches of group 2 of the Super 12. Such was the itinerary that the two most difficult matches of India took place early on. Looking back, India might have done better to play one of the “lesser” lights – Scotland or Namibia – earlier, but there’s no denying the goal it might have achieved if she had adopted a similar approach of waiting and watching. course like against Pakistanis and New Zealand.
That said, India in the last two matches was unrecognizable from the groping and choppy outfit from before. Where their feet were cast in lead and their minds cluttered with doubt, they are now daring, entertaining, unfettered, free to express themselves. Maybe they’ve been mentally released because they have nothing to lose. Perhaps they feel the need to prove to themselves, as much as to the outside world, that they shouldn’t be defined by what happened the first week. Perhaps their views have been strengthened by the quality of the opposition they have encountered in recent days.
India’s last two games, against Afghanistan and Scotland, have been so much fun to watch. Whether they hit first, as against their Asian neighbors, or bowling first after Virat Kohli won a rare 33rd birthday throw against the Scots on Friday, they have been ruthless , uncompromising and relentless. They oozed positivity and purpose, both visibly missing earlier. Why did they need to sound the alarm bells to refine their thinking processes? What impressed a seasoned hitting group with experience in the Indian Premier League, the need to look for gremlins on the pitches and wizards in the opposition when the only demons there were were in? their head?
Despite their sensational victories – and the margins of those which have given India the best net race rate of their group – the fate of India is still no longer in their hands. They will encourage Afghanistan to defeat New Zealand on Sunday and open the door to the semi-finals. It may or may not happen – perhaps Afghanistan has an upheaval in them in a competition where they have found the established nations a bridge too far. Regardless of this, India cannot afford to ignore the lessons which, if heeded, will enable them to transcend the mediocre and flirt with the extraordinary in a consistent way.
Wednesday and Friday reiterated the virtues of carefree cricket. Even though the weight of the world rests on their shoulders, India has found a happy medium to negotiate this burden with grace. The trick in the future will be to make sure that there is no model where fearless cricket is only a last resort. In the rapidly evolving 20-year-old cricket environment, India will be hopelessly left behind if it continues to woo the safety methodology first.
Expected new T20 captain Rohit Sharma and new head coach Rahul Dravid have 11 months to iron out the folds and ensure India is mentally ready for the next World Cup in Australia in October-November. The change of state of mind when pushed into a corner will have to stay. India cannot be nervous one day and explosive the next. They’ll need to redefine their T20 culture and integrate their talent with the right attitude if they don’t want to stand still in a rapidly changing landscape.
Attitude-wise, India has been at the top of its attacking game since New Zealand’s no-contest. This model must become the norm rather than the exception in the future. There is no reason why this could not be the case, although it may require a change of personnel as much as a change of mindset if the existing batting resources are defined in their ways and manner. way of thinking. England made the conscious decision following their 2015 World Cup elimination to wrap themselves in an electric cloak of aggression. If this campaign can catalyze a similar shift in India’s approach, the World Cup wouldn’t have been all gloomy.
R Kaushik is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer who has been writing about cricket for 30 years. He has reported on over 100 test matches and is the co-author of VVS Laxman’s autobiography, 281 And Beyond.