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Match Analysis

India need to cut long tail short to find T20 success

Lack of batters who can bowl and bowlers who can bat means the team has not been able to find a perfect balance

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Over the years, teams have shown there are many ways to be successful in T20 cricket. But having your tail starting from No. 8 isn't one of them. Still, for the second successive game, India played with virtually four No. 11s.
In the first T20I in Tarouba, when India needed 37 from five overs with six wickets in hand, victory was all but theirs. In the next three balls, though, they lost Hardik Pandya and Sanju Samson, and the innings went into a tailspin. With 37 required from 27 balls, Kuldeep Yadav walked in at No. 8. Despite India having four wickets in hand, West Indies were the favourites and duly went on to win the game.
On Sunday, with Kuldeep injured, India brought in Ravi Bishnoi, thus keeping the team combination the same. Batting first, when they lost their fourth wicket in the 12th over, they were again in danger of exposing their tail too soon.
It didn't happen, and to Bishnoi and Arshdeep Singh's credit, they contributed a combined 14 runs off seven balls to take India to 152 for 7. But if India are trying to reboot their approach with the bat, and want their batters to play high-risk cricket, they need to give them more cushion. They need to play one more batter.
Having said that, it's not as simple as that. India's long-standing problem in white-ball cricket has been that their batters don't bowl and their bowlers don't bat.
To strengthen their batting for the second T20I, India's only option was to bring in Yashasvi Jaiswal for one of the bowlers. But that would have left them with just five bowlers. If one of them were to have an off day, or pull off injured during the match, would Hardik have been comfortable giving the ball to Jaiswal, or Tilak Varma, or Suryakumar Yadav against an on-song Nicholas Pooran? Not to mention, with West Indies having at least one left-hand batter in the middle throughout the first 16 overs of the chase, Hardik didn't use Axar Patel even for one over.
When it comes to bowlers, apart from Axar who is batting at No. 7, India don't have anyone else in the current squad who would not look out of place at No. 8. A Shardul Thakur or a Deepak Chahar could solve this problem, but for now, there is no solution.
"It is what it is," Hardik said at the post-match presentation. "In the current situation, we have to play with seven batters and trust them to score maximum runs. I have always believed that bowlers win you games. If your batters are having a good day, you don't need much batting beyond one point.
"We need to figure out how we strengthen our No. 8, 9 and 10 as well if we need them to chip in with five-ten runs, though they did that today. We have to find ways to make sure we have the right balance but at the same point, batters need to take more responsibility.
"If I can be honest, it was not a pleasing batting performance. We could have done a lot better. Wickets kept falling and at the same time, the pitch was playing on the slower side. I think we were not good enough to manage that and get to a total of 160-plus, 170."
Despite posting a sub-par total, India did well to pull things back towards the end of the chase. They had West Indies eight down in 16 overs with the target still 24 runs away. That's when the gulf between the two lower orders became even starker.
While India's batting effectively ended at No. 7, West Indies' No. 9 Akeal Hosein and No. 10 Alzarri Joseph never gave an impression that their team was in any sort of trouble, and finished the job with an over and a ball to spare. A big reason behind their calmness could have been that the asking rate was always around six. But even if it would have gone up a notch, both batters have the ability to clear the boundary, something their Indian counterparts lack.
It is possible India are treating these five T20Is as part of their build-up to the upcoming ODI World Cup. But with the next T20 World Cup also less than ten months away, they must be a little more fearless in trying out different combinations.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo