‘Tough luck’ for India, ‘Sorry’ for Virat Kohli

India vs Pakistan
India vs Pakistan

PARAG JAIN

Riding high on 9 wins from the last 10 Twenty-20 matches, India beat Bangladesh in Bangladesh, in the final of the Asia Cup, to lift the title for the record sixth time and entered the sixth edition of the World T20 as the favourites. And on 31 March 2016 India were out of the race for the World T20 after losing to West Indies in the semi-final. That’s how fickle the game of cricket, and notably the 20-over format, is. Playing against Australia earlier this year, the Men in Blue fought back hard after losing the 5-match ODI series 4-1, and dominated the hosts in the three T20 matches. The linchpin of the Indian batting line-up Virat Kohli earned the Man of the Series award. India was No. 8 in the ICC T20 rankings when this series started and by the time they whitewashed Australia, they found themselves at the top of the table.

Soon after returning home, India played three T20 matches against Sri Lanka where they won two and lost one. Then the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, for the first time in history, was revised to T20, keeping in mind the upcoming T20 World Cup. India won five matches on the trot to bring home the trophy.

And then came the biggest event of the year — ICC World T20. India was in the Group 2 with formidable teams like Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Three teams — India, Australia and South Africa were on the minds of almost all cricket experts when asked to predict the final four of the tournament.

India vs New Zealand
India vs New Zealand

On 15 March India had a disastrous start against New Zealand in Nagpur. New Zealand had a new captain in Kane Williamson since their former captain and one of the most destructive batsmen in the world, Brendon McCullum bid adieu to the game in February. Before this match, the Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar said that New Zealand lacked the X-factor in the absence of the aggressive McCullum. Williamson won the toss and opted to bat first on a turning wicket. The Indian bowlers bowled well to restrict the opposition to 126 runs for the loss of seven wickets. With India’s batting line-up being considered the best among all, this looked like a piece of cake for them. But in the fifth over of the second innings, India were four wickets down for 26 runs. India was thrashed by 47 runs in a low-scoring match. Williamson read the pitch correctly and played spinners ahead of front-line pacers, who ended up taking 9 Indian wickets. By now, India had met New Zealand five times in T20 Internationals and had lost all five matches.

From here on, even one more loss in the group stage could make it extremely difficult for India to reach the semi-finals, as their Net Run Rate was beyond repair. India’s next match was the most anticipated match against arch rivals Pakistan. In this particular contest, there was more pressure on India because they had lost their first match. On the other hand, Pakistan had won their first match convincingly against Bangladesh.

It looked like an easy win for India with the Indian bowlers on top of their game and Pakistan had a total of 118 runs losing 5 wickets. But the Indian openers failed. Kohli came again to the rescue with Yuvraj Singh. India won by 6 wickets with 13 deliveries left and Kohli was adjudged the Man of the Match for his unbeaten 55 runs off 37 balls. India’s win-loss record against Pakistan in all World Cup matches was now showing 11- 0, with 6 wins in ODIs and 5 in T20Is.

India vs Bangladesh
India vs Bangladesh

On March 23 in Bengaluru, Bangladesh decided to chase and were looking for their first win of the tournament after losing to Pakistan and Australia. India lost seven wickets to score 146 runs in 20 overs. Bangladesh batsmen moved towards the target steadily as India dropped four catches. It was down to 17 needed off 12 balls when Jasprit Bumrah did a fantastic job giving away just 6 runs, which meant Bangladesh required 11 from the final over with four wickets in hand. Hardik Pandya conceded a single off the first ball followed by two consecutive fours from Mushfiqur Rahim’s willow which silenced the fans in the stadium. Two to win from three balls. Rahim went for a big hit and was caught at deep mid-wicket. Two to win from two balls. Mahmudullah went for a big hit and was caught at deep mid-wicket. Last ball, Bangladesh still needed two runs. New batsman Shuvagata Hom swung his bat and missed and immediately set off for a bye. Dhoni collected the ball and ran in to break the stumps… and India had pulled off a miracle. India won by one run.

India vs Australia

Last match of Group 2 was in Mohali India vs. Australia. Both teams had two wins from three matches and the winner was to enter semi-finals. The Aussies elected to bat first and set a target of 161 for India. Dhoni continued with the same playing eleven in all matches despite some players failing again and again. Indian openers continued with their dismal performances and Kohli stepped up once again and brought India back in the game with help from Yuvraj who was struggling with an injured left foot. When Dhoni walked in, India required 67 from 36; and they achieved the target with 5 balls to spare. India won by 6 wickets and was the only Asian team to qualify for semis. Virat Kohli (82 not out off 51) played one of the best knocks ever and picked up another Man of the Match award. A major concern for India was that their batting line-up was heavily dependent on Kohli.

India vs West Indies

India had one of the most devastating matches in Mumbai on March 31 when Darren Sammy won the crucial toss and put India into bat. An opening partnership of 62 runs between Rohit and Rahane put India in a good position. And the go-to guy Virat Kohli was in the form of his life. He faced 47 deliveries to score 89 runs and remained not out. India’s scorecard at the end of 1st innings read 192-2. Every Indian fan’s only worry was Chris Gayle who had the potential to win matches single-handedly for his team. And every Indian fan celebrated as if India had won the match when the ball left Jasprit Bumrah’s hand to crash into Gayle’s off-stump. He scored 4 runs. But Indian bowlers struggled because of the due. Everyone was going for runs and the big-hitting by West Indian batsmen helped them chase the target in the last over and they were in the World T20 final for the second time. Lendl Simmons was the Man of the Match for his unbeaten 81 off 50 balls. He was caught twice when the bowlers over-stepped the popping crease, and was again caught at the boundary when the fielder stepped on the rope.

West Indies went on to defeat England in a thrilling final and became the first team to lift the World T20 trophy for the second time. Virat Kohli was named the Man of the Tournament for scoring 273 runs in 5 innings at an incredible average of 136.50. India had a good tournament and they entertained not just the Indian fans, but everyone across the world. The inaugural World T20 champions were now to wait another four years to have a second shot at the trophy.

Parag Jain

Parag Jain

Parag Jain, a Delhiite, studied journalism in Mumbai and is currently working with ESPNcricinfo.com. He is a huge cricket fan and is looking forward to making a valuable contribution in the field of sports journalism.
Parag Jain

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Parag Jain

Parag Jain, a Delhiite, studied journalism in Mumbai and is currently working with ESPNcricinfo.com. He is a huge cricket fan and is looking forward to making a valuable contribution in the field of sports journalism.