India stuck in T20 mode

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

Team India were in Twenty-20 mode whereas Pakistan played the almost old-fashioned ODI cricket to emerge triumphant in Dhaka. The difference between the two sides in the final was simply that of styles even if the toss did play a role in loading the match in favour of the team setting the target.


M.S. Dhoni was quick to own up his tactical mistakes, which he said had to do with his batting order, specifically that of promoting Suresh Raina rather than stepping in himself. The batting order error may, however, have had less to do with the verdict. The reason why India failed was the bowlers were still in the T-20 mood, happy to escape punishment.


In assessing the conditions, Pakistan proved clever and quick. They analysed the situation early and decided a safe start was more important and that wickets in hand at the end would mean runs. In playing the ODI as teams would 10 years ago, they made the first half pretty dull.


It was when the batsmen opened up to accelerate that India's bowling came apart. The analysis graphic showed that more than 100 of the 315 runs were scored in an arc between long on and wide midwicket. India did not do enough to plug the hole while Younis Khan made use of the strategic area freely.


The Indian bowlers seemed to have forgotten that taking wickets is a more valuable tool in an ODI. While escaping the stick can be central to T-20 plans, such containment is not going to help in the longer format. India may, however, not have foreseen the trap because they had won the toss in the league game and used the T-20 hitting ability of Gambhir and Sehwag to run away to a large enough total that was easily defended.


There was statistical proof for the planned Pakistan batting assault in the final. While India breezed to about 140 in 20 overs in the league game, Pakistan were a mere 75/1 in the final despite which they landed up almost near India's total. Team India were once again in T-20 mode, although they could not be blamed for this dart at the target in excess of 300 in the final.


The loss of wickets at regular intervals is something that has to be brushed aside in T-20 as teams have simply to keep going or risk running out of attacking options as a limited opportunity fades away. In an ODI, such losses leave little ammunition for the charge at the end.


While teams regularly met asking rates in the region of 11-12 per over in T-20, an ask of 8 an over proved too far in the final. Of course, Umer Gul's brilliant yorkers ensured there could be no late dash from India.


Truth to tell, India were not as good a side as they were in Australia at the beginning of the year. But then the weaker wing of their cricket, which is bowling, was well hidden on the sporting pitches of Australia while it stood starkly exposed on a good Dhaka deck. When a spinner gets taken for 85 runs in his 10 overs to make Piysuh Chawla's spell the most expensive by an Indian tweaker, it does suggest bowling weakness in plumb conditions.


The team will have to go back to the drawing board to work out a better strategy for ODI cricket, which will dominate the calendar between now and October with the prestigious Champions Trophy also to be played in that time. The obsession with T-20 cricket may have proved financially valuable to many. Even they should know that the game has three formats now and to do reasonably well as a team in all would be the great challenge of new age cricket.


Republished with permission from The Asian Age