Super 8 Round-Up: India vs. West Indies

Both India and West Indies needed a win to keep their chances in this tournament alive at more than a statistical improbability. Once again, it was the former World Twenty20 champions India who played a poor game of cricket and thus have effectively booked an early flight home. Just as in the previous edition, where back-to-back losses against England and South Africa led to our non-statistical elimination, we now rely on a rickety-bridge sequence of events to occur for us to have a chance. More on that later.

Starting off with poor team selection…

When captains stick to players who have failed, they are putting a vote of confidence in those players. This is generally a good thing to do, except if the player you are putting your confidence on is as pathetic a Twenty20 player as Ravindra Jadeja. I singled Jadeja out for a bashing in the previous match and I will do so here, again. However, today Dhoni takes the blame for selecting him in the first place. Once again, Jadeja made his effect felt in the match in all facets of the game. He started off with a misfield off a simple pick-up in the circle early in the game. He then went on to drop Chanderpaul, who added only 9 more runs but more importantly allowed a huge opening partnership to set the platform for a late onslaught.

When he came on to bowl, Jadeja leaked 27 runs in his 2 overs, which puts his total at about 60 runs in the 4 overs he has bowled in this edition’s Super 8. His first over featured 2 sixes in the first four balls, which coupled with the fact that he had given 6 sixes off his last 9 balls in the previous match, meant that Jadeja has given 8 sixes off his last 13 balls. That’s better than a six every other ball. That’s 4 sixes an over. Yet, he gets selected by Dhoni.

Finally, Jadeja was issued a vote of no-confidence by Dhoni when Harbhajan was sent in ahead of him in the batting order. A good decision, too, because Bhajji actually knows how to wield the long handle. Jadeja couldn’t even clear the infield when he was batting. In fact, he couldn’t even hit the ball in the air when we needed it to rain sixes. Sure, you don’t have the talent or strength to smack a maximum, but what about intent?

To summarize this tirade, please get Ravindra Jadeja the hell out of the Twenty20 squad. I don’t care if  you select him for ODIs or Tests but this guy should be way behind in the pecking order. India would have been so much better off by picking a real bowler and not going in with three specialists only. Sure, there’s the thought that our batsmen would be skittled out by the short deliveries (which they were. But if 7 batsmen are going to get out to bouncers, the 8th one isn’t likely to play a game-changer. Jadeja contributes nothing with the bat or ball. We should have played Piyush or Vijay Kumar.

Batting continues to struggle against short bowling…

The Indian team has NO EXCUSE for this one. They could have played the “surprise” card at the World Twenty20 in England last year when we were bounced out by the West Indies and then England. However, we’ve now had 10 months to fix it. We’ve known that the Twenty20 World Cup is going to be in the West Indies for a couple of years, now. We’ve known that we are shit against short bowling. But instead of doing anything, we prepare for the fiesta that is the IPL and its flurry of flat tracks. The fact that we don’t have a single pace bowler who can hit 140k’s is embarrassing in itself. The fact that international grade cricketers can’t pull the ball is pathetic. How the hell are these guys going to play ODIs and Tests outside of the subcontinent?

The mathematical uncertainty…

There is a tiny ray of hope for India to qualify to the next round. First, Australia will need to wallop both Sri Lanka and West Indies. Then, we will need to wallop Sri Lanka. This will put Australia at 6 points and India, West Indies and Sri Lanka at 2 points. However, for this to happen, Sri Lanka will need to be destroyed by both Australia and us since their NRR is at an imposing +2.850 compared t our -1.575.  I’ll post a mathematical update at the completion of the Australia-Sri Lanka game in the event that Australia win. To recap, if Sri Lanka win, India is mathematically eliminated. This will put Sri Lanka at 2 wins and since Australia and West Indies both have 1 win each and play each other, one of them will have 2 wins, which is more than India can manage.

Australia go in with 5 front-line bowlers. India went in with 3. </discussion>

india-england post-mortem: india out

Well that’s that. India’s batting let them down in a major way and we are now officially out of the tournament. As expected, the English bowlers bowled it “around the earholes” of the Indian batsmen with good effect; we managed only 59 off the first 10 overs. It is pretty pathetic to be in an international side in any format of the game and not be able to play short deliveries. I guess it points out a major shortcoming in the Indian domestic cricket structure.

Openers

Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir failed once again as Sharma unluckily pulled one onto his stumps. I suppose the loss of Sehwag is beginning to show here–a part-time opener can go only so far. It may have been worth surprising the English, who had obviously made “bouncer” plans by sending in an unconventional opener, such as Yusuf Pathan. However, Dhoni left his “thinking out of the box” to make another ‘brilliant’ move. Gambhir looked in fluent touch for once, though, so I suppose that is one positive.

Middle Order

I haven’t seen an Indian batsmen play so pathetically against a short ball as Suresh Raina today, since the days of Sourav Ganguly. Not something you’d expect from one of the 5 cricketers named as the cricketers of the next century by Wisden. All the same. It appears he did not work on facing the short delivery in the nets, since he looked even worse against it than in the game against the West Indies. And instead of putting the pull shot out of the playbook, he decided it would be more intelligent to attempt it and obviously holed out. Sigh. This is the downside of picking “youngsters” I suppose. They do some really stupid things on the way up their learning curve.

Next came Dhoni’s “mastermind” move. Ravindra Jadeja. In my earlier post, I conceded that Dhoni may have made a correct choice by picking Jadeja, but any thoughts of that quickly vanished after his pathetic display of batting today. I believe Dhoni had sent Jadeja in to play the same role as England had sent Mascarenhas in to play: get some quick runs at the cost of a relatively cheap wicket. Unfortunately, Jadeja neither got quick runs nor got out nor rotated the strike. If his performance in the warm-up game against New Zealand was bad, this was downright unacceptable. I said after that New Zealand game that I hoped Jadeja was no where near our starting XI. I was wrong. I change that now to say that I hope Jadeja is never near an Indian international cricket squad in his life. He’s just not good enough–not for Twenty20 anyhow. He has now displayed that he not only lacks the ability to finish games, but he doesn’t have the ability to build a base for someone else to finish the game. He clearly shouldn’t be opening, so the only way I can see him in the game is as a pure bowler. I actually think Irfan Pathan would have been a hell of a lot useful with the bat than Jadeja was, today. All the same, it was still Dhoni’s mistake to send Jadeja in instead of coming in himself. As a result, Yuvi didn’t come in until the equation was too imbalanced (11+ runs per over required) and hence he was negated.

Lower Order

Yusuf Pathan showed why form players should be pushed up the order. Dhoni continued to struggle with the bat, but the two made a valiant effort to save the game, and got within 3 runs. Yusuf, in particular, hit a one-handed six to get the equation down to 9 from 2, but was only able to dig out a block-hole delivery the next ball to secure the win for England. Yuvi, who looked in good touch, was dismissed by a quickfire stumping opportunity by Foster off Swann, and that was honestly where we probably lost the match.

General Thoughts

A lot of the current crop of batsmen seem to display no on-the-field intelligence. Jadeja, for example, pulled 5 out of 6 balls in a Stuart Broad over. 3 of them were miscued and 2 of them he missed. In the age of innovative paddle shots, reverse sweeps galore and walking across the stumps, it is absolutely unacceptable that you stand in your crease and get eaten up by bouncers. You’ve had 2 days to plan against it and if you aren’t comfortable pulling it, think about other ways to counter it!

This was again in evidence in the penultimate over bowled by Stuart Broad. Broad bowled in the same area every single ball. The commentators knew what he was going to do, so the Indian think tank should definitely have had that knowledge. Yet Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni both stayed on their leg-stump guard and tried to hoick it to the midwicket boundary every single ball. Seriously? Move across the stumps. Walk down. Take guard inside/outside your crease. Don’t just follow the pig in front of you on the way to the slaughterhouse!

Fielding

After everything is said and done, the two glaring points of this match and this tournament was our poor fielding and our inability to play the short-pitched delivery. If you simplify the match naively, India would have won this game if Harbhajan hadn’t bowled one down the leg side on the last ball of the over, and Yuvraj hadn’t misfielded it. We gave away 5 runs on that ball and we lost by 3. England saved at least 15-20 runs more than us in the field, which is not acceptable seeing that we are not lugging around any of our “seniors”. These are all youngsters and should be at the peak of their fitness and athletic ability.

The Future

I will be supporting the Lankan team now. Mendis, Murali and Malinga seem to be the package that could just stop South Africa on what appears to be a clear path to the championship now. Sri Lanka’s batting still depends heavily on their openers firing, but their bowlers seem to have the ability to defend almost any total, regardless of how low it is. It’ll be interesting to see how their semifinal and perhaps final opponents address that problem.