World T20 2014 April 7, 2014

India turn over a new leaf

After a tough winter, India must be lauded for putting in such a commanding performance all the way to the final that somewhere along the way, they became title favourites

This was a team that had not won anything at all in any format on its two winter tours and was beaten by Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Asia Cup. They had come close, of course, they had competed, but that winning feeling had last come for them against West Indies at home in November last year. Yes, Bangladesh is much closer to home for the Indians compared to South Africa and New Zealand - home is just a "forty-minute flight away" as MS Dhoni said - but a winless environment is not what you want to take with yourself into a world tournament. Yes, the conditions played a big part, but India have to be lauded for putting in such a commanding performance all the way to the final that somewhere along the way, they became title favourites.

This after entering the tournament with only two wins - against Bangladesh and Afghanistan - in nearly four months. And with a World T20 record in the past three editions that suggested the format began and ended for them with the IPL - they are not allowed to play in any other domestic T20 league, and they couldn't perform in the World T20. This time, not only did India win consistently in Dhaka, they won every game convincingly till the final, so convincingly that the victories started to look formulaic.

Bowl first, bowl aggressive wicket-taking spin, restrict the opposition, and hunt down the modest target with ease. This approach worked to perfection in their first three games against Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh, and made them the first team in the tournament to qualify for the semi-finals. They wanted to bat first in their final group game against Australia, were put in and recovered to post a decent total before the spinners, led by R Ashwin, demolished the opposition.

The batsmen, led by Player-of-the-Tournament Virat Kohli, took over in the semi-final against South Africa, hunting down 170-plus against the might of Dale Steyn and co with nearly an over to spare. India made this match appear like a typical subcontinent ODI chase, where their batsmen were capable and confident enough to surge past whatever their bowlers had conceded.

India can take credit for showing in this World T20 that it is possible to play formulaic cricket in the shortest format in familiar conditions and develop a measure of consistency in winning, something thought to be nearly impossible in T20. Almost all their wins were one-sided. Their matches lacked the kind of chaotic thrill a crowd expects from a T20. This lack tells you a lot about their dominance in a format which, due to its ultra-condensed nature, produces nail-biters almost by rote.

It seemed too good to be true, and things came unstuck spectacularly in the final, where the mighty line-up was hamstrung by its most experienced member and by a charged-up, disciplined opposition attack. The signs had not been encouraging from Yuvraj Singh in the first couple of games, where he fell short in whatever he tried to do on the field. When he came good in a no-pressure game - from the team point of view - against Australia, it seemed India had ticked the one final box on their sheet going into the knockouts. It was to prove misleading. Yuvraj's struggles were back in the semi-final, and peaked in the final, where he had one of his worst off days ever, simultaneously draining whatever momentum Kohli was providing at the other end.

That said, it is a reflection of the unbelievably extreme pressure under which Indian cricketers play, when reports come in that Yuvraj's house was stoned after the final. Not only was it utterly disrespectful to the man who had won India the 2011 World Cup, it was also unmindful of the fact that it was the last hurdle at which the team had fallen, and not in the qualifying rounds. And before the final, they had won five successive matches, something they did not manage even when they took the title in 2007.

The man who had fallen one match short of becoming the first captain to hold the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and the World T20 at the same time, was satisfied with how India had performed in Bangladesh. "Overall if you see the whole tournament we played really well," Dhoni said after the final. "Right from the practice matches, and it was (also) evident from the fact that we didn't have too many changes in our side as the tournament progressed. Spinners contributed when there was a bit of turn for them. Throughout the tournament, more often than not, they bowled well. And Virat has been brilliant for us for last one, one and a half years, even more. He is someone who has been very consistent. Yes, overall very happy with how everybody performed."

That is the conclusion Indian cricket's well-wishers should take from this World T20. Bangladesh 2014 emphatically ended the disappointment of England 2009, West Indies 2010 and Sri Lanka 2012. The abiding image should be one of Kohli mastering the chase in the semi-final, although the chance is it will be that of Yuvraj bottling up in the final.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramya on April 10, 2014, 7:39 GMT

    @ Euqiddis Ahh Sorry I dont want to get dragged into 'which team is the best' conversation but since u had mentioned the period - let me tell u tht Ind has more wins against SL even then - so ur arugument doesnt stand.....

    I wud also like to remind u tht amongst all test playing nations, Ind and SL have played the most against each other in the last 2 decades! So possibly SL cud have registered most no of wins against Ind on the same note, SL is also the most beaten side by Ind during the same time period....

  • thishan on April 10, 2014, 7:11 GMT

    @chethan asher well said mate.. that is the thing lacking from most of the indian fans... humbleness to accept the defeat.. anyway it s nice world cup. we have argued so much here but ultimately its the game that gives the bond to all of us.. so now we will start watching the matches to come..IPL is a cash cow and i do not have that much of an interest on that... however fingers crossed and looking for the excitement in future...

  • Dummy4 on April 10, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    hi indians guys if your real cricket fans or real cricket history knows look previouse record starting from 1996 to untill 2009 witch team have a more record nd more beat to indian team dont talk from mouth look the record nd count the match details first reasontly under dhoni captaincy winning some matches then you all a talking in cricket history your the all time champions ahaha...

  • mohammad on April 10, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    I think India played very well and Srilanka deserves the win after so many finals. Yuvi's selection for the final was not a good decision, period. ___ should have come before Yuvi who sit down in despair and watched India falling behind. If Kholi's catch was taken, India would be in tougher situation, who knows. SL, played better and they won. Why just one player's home is attacked, give him a break . It was not his day.

  • Nitin on April 9, 2014, 20:39 GMT

    Am surprised why people are critisizing India and hailing SL though SL was scratchy in all matches except in finals when India didn't play well. What happ to those criticise India on fast pitches, NZ/AUS/ENG all failed to do well in Bangladesh !!!!!

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    @All Yuvraj critics AND the author of this article - Acceptable batting performance in a 120 ball innings - anyone who has played over 30 balls should be in the 140 strike rate, crossing 40 balls he should be in the 160 / 170 strike rate. Virat Kohli - had an approx. 100 strike rate for his first 40 balls (when the weaker of SL's bowlers were bowling at him) ! As a result of Virat's near test match-style batting in the first half of India's batting, SL was able to bowl out their weaker bowlers to Virat knowing that they had no price to pay, with Kohli not even trying to hit ! With his ultra-defensive innings, Kohli put India in a situation where the Indian batsmen had to play the innings of their lifetime (with 3 overs from Malinga still pending) for India to reach a moderate 150 ! With Cricinfo AND the Indian team management refusing to say a word against Virat (AND SL captain, Malinga having dropped a sitter off Kohli)..I am left wondering what was the secret of SL's win.

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 11:47 GMT

    When WI played in those days, India trembled and shivered. When Pak started winning India got a complex. When Sanath, Murali, and vass demoralised India, nothing was done to correct the rot. When any overseas tour was dismal, not much was done. Whatever India won in between was sheer talent, luck, pluck, and the players own will. Maybe now and then a good move by some X administrator.

    Then came money. But the team had brilliant individuals and some mediocre ones. No one ever did anything to build a "process" or "strategy" or "vision with a roadmap or plan".

    Somehow India finally got a set of fine thinking cricketers who played for pride. Ganguly, Dravid, Sachin, VVS, Kumble. Ganguly was not a great batsman but a fine leader. These guys ensured that India did well. They got foreign coaches and a systematic approach going. Then in MSD we got a fine man manger.

    Would like to see a few things done at every level in Indian cricket. But don't believe it will happen. That's India :(

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    tcarlos..India has won 2 world cups outside India , one is England and one in South Africa and a Champions Trophy in England, Sri Lanka has won both this world cups in the subcontinent so please examine your facts. As an Indian Fan I accept on that day SL was the better team and deserved to win Period.

  • Muhammad on April 9, 2014, 9:31 GMT

    I am sure if Kohli wouldn't have been given two chances, India would have crumbled under 100. Last 4 overs 19 runs and not a single boundary and they claim to be world beaters. Luck with toss and bowling conditions favored them to reach the finals. Otherwise everyone knows how woeful their bowling is.

  • sri on April 9, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    @tcarlos I donno which game you were watching for the last 4 6 years. Just look at the matches between India and SL during that period. You were hammered, annihilated in every part of the world. Its the truth. If you still don't believe in this, Just check the stats page and how often just for fun India have trounced SL. what lies in the future no one knows? May be SL has upper or Ind has the upper hand. But if you look at the last few years India have absolutely annihilated SL. Now in this final you played well throughout the tournament and you deserved to win. But what you are stating is completely wrong my friend. what holds in the future will be interesting to see between these tow though?