India’s common mistakes and Pooran 2.0

How did India go 0-2 down against the seventh-ranked West Indies?

When the last time West Indies defeated India in consecutive T20Is, England still held the Ashes, AB de Villiers was still an international cricketer, MS Dhoni was India’s T20 captain and CSK had won the IPL only twice. It was in 2016 and 2017, when West Indies defeated India three times in a row. Since then, they had managed only two wins in 17 completed T20Is against the Men in Blue. 

In two games this series, West Indies have doubled their tally of wins. India are not fielding their first-choice XI but this isn’t the scoreline many expected at this point in the series. 

How did top-ranked India go 0-2 down against the seventh-ranked West Indies? We try to explore it here:

The lopsided balance  

For the second time in the series, the Indian batting looked handicapped by the lack of resources in the death overs. In the first T20I, India required 37 off 30 balls with two set batters in but failed to cross the finish line after Jason Holder delivered a double wicket maiden over. 

In the absence of any batting expertise at number eight, the dismissals of Hardik Pandya and Sanju Samson in quick succession left Axar Patel alone to do the job and India fell short by four runs. On the Criclytics match reel, Holder’s over caused a drop of 47% in India’s chances of a win which is a highly significant number. 

In the second T20I on Sunday (August 6), India were again left in a strange position when Axar Patel walked out to bat at number seven in the 16th over. With Pandya as the only batter alongside him, the duo could not press the accelerator with only four more overs to go. Another wicket would have left too many overs to bat for the lower order, which consists of little to no batting expertise. 

Fortunately,  Ravi Bishnoi and Arshdeep Singh managed 14 runs off seven balls between them to stretch India’s total to a par number – 152. However, for the second time in a row, India were not in an ideal position to finish on a good note. 

According to a shallow cricket dictum, if seven batters cannot get the job done, you should not expect the eighth batter to contribute much. However, the absence of a batter at eight can render the number seven ineffective. West Indies showed how the batting depth can create a difference with Alzarri Joseph and Akeal Hosein adding 26 runs for the ninth wicket to get the Windies across the finish line. 

This difference is a direct result of a strange team selection. Not that it is strange that India have picked only 15 players for a five-match series in the farthest cricketing continent but they picked only eight batters in the squad. The eighth batter, Yashasvi Jaiswal, yet to take part in the series, is also an opener. 

The only way the Men in Blue can have decent batting till number eight is if Jaiswal is drafted in for a bowler but it will leave the side with only five bowling options. You need six of them, especially against teams with plenty of left-handed batting options, as West Indies have. 

India is doomed regarding team balance and will have to find a way to counter it soon because they are running out of time, being 0-2 down in this five-match series. 

Pooran 2.0, the game-changer

The way he is batting, it is fair to say Nicholas Pooran is back in OG avatar. After a long time, the 27-year old seemed consistent during the maiden MLC season, topping the run-charts with 388 runs. He has carried that form to the West Indies setup as well. 

Pooran walked out to bat in the first over with the hosts down at 2/2. When he was dismissed, West Indies were only 27 away with an asking rate of under five runs per over. 

Quite like his 41 in the first T20I, Pooran’s 40-ball 67 turned out to be the point of difference between the two sides. In a game where the mean strike-rate was 132.8, Pooran mustered runs at 167.5. For India, no batter in the top seven managed a strike-rate beyond 135.

Having gained the reputation of a slogger, Pooran’s approach has been on point in this series. On the back of his excellent form, he has bashed all kinds of bowling in the powerplay. He has tonked the pacers at a strike-rate of 150 and smoked the spinners at 315.4. 

Making sure the last over of the powerplay is not wasted, the southpaw has scored 31 runs off the 10 balls in the sixth over in this series. 

Post powerplay, his strike-rate dips to 95.6, signifying that Pooran has also valued his wicket. The strike-rate is under 100 but the wicketkeeping batter has ensured a new batter is not exposed to the Indian spinners. The skipper Rovman Powell mentioned how the series will be decided on how they play the Indian spinners in the series. Pooran seems to have taken the onus of keeping the Indian tweakers at bay. Moreover, his presence ensures India limit the use of Axar Patel with the ball. 

“The way Pooran has been batting makes it difficult to rotate spinners. It doesn’t matter if someone takes the ball away or into him,” said Pandya after the match. 

Poor use of bowlers, again

Hardik Pandya is amongst the wickets but it is still inexplicable to see him complete his four-over quota ahead of a specialist bowler in Mukesh Kumar. And India didn’t bring Axar in play with the ball. When nothing else was working out, it was a bait option worth exploring during the middle–overs. 

In the biggest miss, however, India didn’t bowl Yuzvendra Chahal all four overs. He was the bowler who brought the visitors back into the game, picking three wickets for one run in the 16th over. Later, he was removed from the attack for Arshdeep Singh and never came on for the fourth over. 

Probably Pandya was saving the leg-spinner for the last over. But with West Indies eight wickets down, he could have finished the game earlier. Bowling them out was India’s best chance given the asking rate was only 5.2 when Chahal came on for his third over. 

Chahal didn’t bowl out in the first T20I as well, despite striking twice in his first over. 

All these have been common mistakes across both T20Is. For the second game in a row, India would not be proud of how they used their bowling resources. 

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