There was something wrong about this Indian team yesterday. Barring a good bowling comeback in late stages of the Pakistan innings, the team looked flat and short on ideas. For sure they were outplayed by their arch-rivals but a bit more fight could have been mustered.
Sloppy Decision-Making in Key moments of this Tournament:-
Let us recall India’s game against Pakistan in the group stages. Kohli and Kumble decided to go with an extra pacer and left Ashwin out. A decision that had mixed reactions but no repercussions as India crushed their arch-rivals to begin the tournament.
Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah supported by Hardik Pandya seemed a potent seam quartet that time. Then came a game against Sri Lanka on a flat Oval wicket. India were defending 321 and looked absolutely toothless. Took just one wicket (the other two were runouts) throughout the Lankan innings.
Yadav was the most expensive of the lot that day. People naturally thought to replace him with a spinner as India looked too pedestrian in their attack and needed variations. That’s exactly what happened come the game against South Africa. Ashwin played and bowled well as India bowled the Proteas out of the tournament.
Not Playing Yadav/Shami proved wrong against Bangladesh and Pakistan:-
Indians continued with the same combination against Bangladesh. It was not happening for them in the semi-final until part-timer Kedar Jadhav took two crucial wickets and turned the game. Ashwin had figures of 0-54 which isn’t a great reading. Pandya was expensive that day so India were a seamer short in that respect.
Part-time bowler bailing you out in a semi-final means some changes are required for the final. But Kohli and Kumble thought differently, they went with the same combination trusting Ashwin against Pakistan. It backfired quite strongly.
The offspinner had figures of 0-70 and he with Jadeja had figures of 0-137 in 18 overs. These two were supposed to be the wicket-takers in middle overs. Instead, they were pummelled by the Pakistan batsmen. To their respite, it was a flat wicket and nothing was happening to trouble the batsmen at any time.
Throughout the innings, the Indian bowling lacked the cutting edge, Bumrah is a death over specialist but struggles up front. He is not a long-term solution to 50-over cricket. Pandya is hot and cold with the ball. Jadeja and Ashwin struggled on a flat wicket. They needed someone like Yadav or Shami who have extra pace and also have that wicket-taking ability. It was all too pedestrian and easy for Pakistan.
The other thing is the confidence Kohli had in Ashwin to pick up wickets. The captain had a slip for the offspinner for his first 2-3 overs. The bowler backed that up by bowling flatter lengths on the pads to stop runs and not even look for a bit of spin. When the pitch is not turning, Jadeja becomes a bowler who is bowling straight at you with less pace because it is his turning ball that becomes a variation and troubles the batsmen.
Wrong decision to Chase in a big Final:-
We all remember Sourav Ganguly’s decision to bowl first against mighty Australia way back in 2003 World Cup final. That decision backfired when the Australians scored 359-2 which was a match-winning score. From there on, it is understood that you win the toss and bat in finals.
In general consensus, chasing has been a go-to thing in modern day cricket. But, in a final, there is an extra pressure which should be negated by batting first and putting runs on the board. In addition, this was a final against arch-rivals.
We all know Pakistan are not very good chasers in pressure situations. If they concede anything above 270, it’d had been tough for them. India had the toss in their hands, Kohli thought otherwise. He had confidence in his batting to chase anything down, be it on the biggest pressure stage. Perhaps, the over-confidence backfired strongly.
They let Pakistan make 338 and from there on the task was always tall against a bowling side which can torment any batting lineup. This loss should be a learning curve for Virat Kohli as a captain. How to take decisions when pressure is highest should now be in his senses.
Overall, another good show by the Indians in an ICC tournament. Remember, they were the defending champions, so to come this far defending their crown was magnificent of their part. Few things to iron out (coaching situation comes first) before the 2019 World Cup and they will be good to go.