India with much work to do - Kohli
In the end, India defeated Afghanistan by a comfortable margin. In the end, India had to answer questions about the performance of their bowlers and their openers, while Afghanistan basked in the satisfaction of having given a top team a bit of a fright. It was that kind of game for India. They were expected to win it, and they did, but the manner in which victory was achieved was bound to be questioned.
Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag failed again, leaving run-scoring responsibilities chiefly to Virat Kohli. India's middle order needed Afghanistan to drop four catches to be able to go past 150. Afghanistan then built a solid base to the chase at 52 for 1 in seven overs. India had to rely on part-timer Yuvraj Singh - it possibly is incorrect to call him part-timer anymore - to bring them back. Mohammad Nabi then carted Zaheer Khan for 16 runs in the 16th over to increase MS Dhoni's stress levels before Afghanistan finally ran out of steam.
Kohli said he didn't think India could have lost the game at any stage but admitted they could have won by a bigger margin. He "hoped" the bowling issues were solely due to India coming up against a side that had nothing to lose and came hard at them.
"You are always in doubt [that] if they start scoring in a few overs then things could slip away very quickly," Kohli said. "I am hoping that against a bigger opposition we will turn out in a more positive way as far as our bowling is concerned. Be more aggressive, execute our plans properly and be more geared-up for stronger oppositions. I am hoping that we will put up a better bowling show."
"In Twenty20, if your batting or bowling is not up to the mark then the poor run stretches to two-three games. You need one innings or one spell to change things. But I think we could have done better with the new ball. The wicket was good, there wasn't much swing but I think we could have bowled in better areas and could have won the match with a bigger margin."
The worrying thing was that India needed three successive strikes from Yuvraj to dent Afghanistan's chase. Kohli was asked whether the performance of frontline bowlers such as Zaheer Khan was a concern but said the malaise was largely restricted to bowling at the death.
"Our initial bowling hasn't been that bad. I think that we started well. Even against New Zealand [in the recent T20I in Chennai] we started well. If someone is getting hit in the last over you can't just say that he is not bowling well at all. I think he [Zaheer] is bowling well with the new ball. I think our bowlers need to work a bit more on bowling in the death overs which has been a concern till now and I hope that we can pull our socks up and be ready for the stronger opposition and execute our plans much better than we did in this game."
All is not well on the batting front as well. MS Dhoni has maintained India rely a lot on starts provided by their top three batsman and at the moment, the first two are not weighing in. Kohli ruled out rotating the openers as a solution, and backed Gambhir and Sehwag.
"I believe that in T20 if you play with a settled team composition then the team benefits. If you change the composition and it doesn't work than it leaves a negative impact on the team especially in the batting department. In the bowling department you can experiment in T20. A batting order is set. If the top three score well then you can change the batting order lower down in the innings but changing the combination otherwise is not good. Besides, in T20 you don't need an 80-90 run opening stand. You need a start of 40-45 runs. Only one match has been played so far and the kind of openers we have they are capable of giving us good start at a good pace when they click."
Despite the shortcomings, India did what they had to do. It helped that Afghanistan fluffed simple catches when they had the opportunity to put serious pressure on the India batsmen. Kohli said that was part of the game. "We ended up getting 160-odd and that is what the scoreboard shows. Catches do get dropped and you do get inside edges that pass by the stumps. It is part and parcel of the game. You can't just say that had the catches been taken we would have lost the game. We have won the game and the scorecard shows that. We have to come out and play positively against England and put in a better performance."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo