So India has crashed out of the T20 WC for the second time in a row. A post mortem will begin and many reasons will be discussed and analysed for our poor show.
Could the biggest and most obvious reason be that India is simply a bad T20 team?
Let’s look at Team India’s performance "after" we won the 2007 T20 World Cup.
In Tests, we have won 13 matches and lost six. In ODIs, we have a winning percentage of 58% (both pretty decent).
In T20 Internationals, however, we have won seven and lost 10. If you take only matches against the top eight countries, then it is 4-10, that’s a winning percentage of just 28%. Hardly world class!
We also have the unenviable record of being the only team not to register a single victory in the Super 8s this time. Yes, the other seven teams won at least one match, each making India a clear eighth.
We got thrashed against Australia, fielded poorly and went down against the Windies. Against Lanka we were a comfortable 96/1 after 11 overs and yet ended up with just 163/5. On hindsight, we were never in the reckoning.
The BCCI and team management would do well to realise this fact and put our T20 strategy back on the drawing board and organise many more T20 internationals.
What was the IPL effect?
One thing is clear. The IPL has definitely not made Team India better at T20. It’s a curious case of why not. But the hot topic is IPL fatigue leading to the WC loss. That’s a very difficult thing to substantiate.
One clear casualty of IPL was Virender Sehwag who got injured during the tournament. Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar may or may not have got injured as a result of fatigue carried over by IPL.
Then what of MS Dhoni? Here was a leader who had just outfoxed captains like Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and K Sangakarra in the IPL. But in the 2010 World Cup, he made elementary mistakes all the while looking tired and jaded.
Was that because of the IPL?
Yuvraj Singh may also have been bogged down by the Kings XI Punjab off-field controversy.
What about the positives of the IPL? Pragyan Ojha got the Purple Cap with 21 wickets and yet couldn’t find a place in the team. Robin Uthappa had the best strike rate among Indians and he, too, was left out in the cold. That points to bad selection.
A long-term problem of short balls
You can’t deny that most Indians are plagued with the old problem of facing short balls on fast pitches. How many tournaments and series have we lost because of that? How many careers have been cut short thanks to that? This time it was no different.
Other teams have problems on India’s spinning tracks. Before the 1987 semi-final against India, England captain Graham Gooch practiced the sweep shot all day. When his team-mates were tired, Mumbai club bowlers gave him the practice he wanted. When they, too, were exhausted, random spinners were brought from around Wankhede Stadium.
Only bad light stopped his relentless sweeping. The next day Gooch scored a century, some 30-40 runs coming off the sweep shot thereby sweeping hot favourites India out of the World Cup.
Perhaps India needs the Gooch Treatment. Before any tour where we are likely to face fast and bouncy pitches, a bowling machine should shoot out short balls on a green pitch all day at the whole Indian squad for a few days. That would give them the hang of playing short balls.
Over to Mission 2011
But the Indian fan should not get disappointed. Nowadays World Cups are a dime and dozen. This World Cup came 10 months after the last one and the next WC (the ODI one) is just nine months away. That one won’t have the problems mentioned above:
1. We have been consistent in ODIs and currently rank No. 2.
2. The IPL comes after the World Cup this time. At best, there will be complaints of World Cup fatigue during the IPL.
3. Since the tournament is in India, we will have either fully flat or slow and spinning tracks. The non-Indian batsmen and bowlers will be complaining.
Earlier columns by Sunil Rajguru: Will T20 kill the ODI star? | Six things I still like about the IPL…
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.