Is the glass half full or is it half empty? That’s the classical question for looking at any situation.
There are many ways of analysing India’s campaign at the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. By one account, it is an unqualified disaster. Our bowling was weak. Our batting was not up to the mark. The captaincy was confused. The team was imbalanced, etc etc.
But there were many positives too. For one, we won four out of the five matches, one of our most consistent runs after the 2007 WC. For that, we were rewarded with the ICC No. 2 ranking on the day of our exit. That’s also the best we have achieved in a long long time.
In the match against Afghanistan, we were languishing at 75/3 after 12 overs, but we accelerated in the last 8 overs scoring 84 runs and posting a competitive target of 160 and we won comfortably in the end.
Against England, our bowling was a revelation. It is not every day that you get the defending world champions 80 all down. It was also the return to international cricket of Harbhajan Singh, who posted his best figures of 4-12. If picked, then it will definitely boost his confidence for the England Test tour.
With Pakistan also we were in top bowling form. Our arch enemies crashed down to 128 all down, their lowest ever WC T20 score, an achievement considering it has been the most consistent team in this form of the game.
The batsmen knocked down this target with three overs to spare, getting our run rate back on track.
Then there was the fighting 1-run win with South Africa as we continue to dominate them in world cups. The Proteas looked to be a consistent and balanced team and were high in the ICC rankings at the beginning of this tournament. And yet they lost all three Super 8 fixtures, such is the unpredictability of the game.
Of course the biggest positive has been Virat Kohli. He scored 185 runs at a great average of 46 odd with two half-centuries. He helped us win our first Super 8 match in 5 years and has arrived in the T20 scene. He’s probably ready to lead the side and build a fresh team for the next WC too.
The second heartening fact was the return of Yuvraj Singh. Many had questioned his fitness and stamina for international cricket, but he picked up 8 wickets to show that he is still a force to reckon with.
But there was only one negative and a huge one at that, considering that it single-handedly nullified all of the above. That was our one off day and our loss with Australia.
The disastrous decision to go with 5 bowlers is there for everyone to see, but hindsight usually gives us 20:20 vision.
Giving the devil his due, a lot of commentators were clamouring that India had one of the weakest bowling attacks and needed to beef it up with a 5 bowler line-up and that’s exactly what the team management did.
The second fact is that the Australian batsmen always struggle on spinning tracks. At one stage, they were performing even worse on Sri Lankan soil than on Indian tracks. It may be remembered that from 1987-2007, they have won a whopping 4 ODI world cups. The only WC final they lost was against Sri Lanka on a sub-continent track.
Had the strategy succeeded, then the decision to play three full-time spinners against Australia would have been seen as a master stroke.
Captain MS Dhoni lamented that rain came in the very first over and the wet ball throughout the innings hampered the spinners. Maybe he was right. Maybe if the ball wasn’t wet, the spinners would have been able to contain the Aussie batsmen and even if we lost, the run rate wouldn’t have been so bad. We might have made it to the semis. Who knows?
Interestingly, in the very next match, the Aussies struggled against slow bowling again. They crashed against the Pakistani spinners and could muster up only 117-7. The match against India seemed a flash in the pan!
In fact the way Aussie batsmen have been rampaging of late, a target of 150 wasn’t that much and had Australia won the Pakistan match, then there would have been no negatives from India’s side. India would have entered the semis and Dhoni would have been seen as a master tactician.
Such is the unpredictability of cricket!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/