India has lost 5 of their last 6 T20 internationals. This could make for deceptive reading, considering most teams play just a few T20 games per tour, and because the T20 World Cup is the only event that brings some serious short-form cricket to the table.
But at Dharamsala and Cuttack, previously untested T20 Indian venues, the Indian team – in which every player plays for at least one domestic team in the league – seemed to signify not rustiness or inexperience, but rather a worrying lack of understanding of this format. While it can be said that these are just warm-up games for the ODI and Test series, it has to be noted that the South Africans have never been a remarkable T20 side. But they’ve defeated India by 7 wickets and 6 wickets respectively, and have sealed the series with a match to go at Eden Gardens. These are convincing victories – methodical and professional, and they’ve even adapted to the pace of the game faster than the home side. Bowling India out for 92 with 16 balls to spare is a remarkable performance, as is chasing down 200 with 7 wickets to spare.
Here’s what we’ve learned from the finished-before-it-began T20 series:
1. MS Dhoni is a finisher – of his own career.
It has been noticeable for a while now that the Indian captain hasn’t been in the best of batting or leading form. Moreover, after quitting test cricket, there’s no additional burst of energy in the shorter formats – and Dhoni seems to have made peace with the fact that this will be his last year of cricket. He looks tired, and his calmness could be mistaken for indifference, but the side seems to be making special adjustments in their order to bring out the best in him. When that happens, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the near future – and let a younger, more dynamic team restructure itself under another leader. His batting has been poor to say the least, and he is far from destructive anymore. The 199 could have been 215 if he had been more aggressive, and he seems to rely far too much on colleagues to turbo-boost an innings before he slogs in the final over.
2. Rohit Sharma needs a runner on Indian grounds.
Thrice, India’s highest scorer of the series Rohit Sharma has been involved in a run-out, including his own. He seems to misjudge the smoothness of sub-continental fields after the slow, droopy fields of Sri Lanka, and has even forgotten about the competence of the Proteas’ fielders. Their throws are flatter than other teams, and it’s an art they’re famous for. Rohit has misjudged quite a few runs over the two matches, and despite his century, he will be hurting for the schoolboy mistakes he commits after being set.
3. The Indian crowds still can’t digest collapses. So 1996.
The Baramati stadium in Cuttack became a cauldron of boos and disgraceful behavior, as India lost their last 8 wickets for 40 runs. Full bottles were thrown onto the field in the South African innings as they cantered to an easy victory. Perhaps the education (or lack of it) in this country seems to let people believe that if something is not going their way, they must take their destinies into their own hands and physically yank it to their favor. Such unwarranted behavior is a result of many years of losing in life as well as on television sets, and even if the Indians get all out for 20, they do not deserve these ‘fans’. Banning such grounds from all future international matches would be a good strategy; if only the governing bodies believed in the power of conscience over economics.
4. R Ashwin only proves how Harbhajan Singh is a defensive bowler.
In the second game, MS Dhoni picked three spinners on a pitch that supported seam. Singh was brought back into the side because of his economical stats for the Mumbai Indians, and once again went wicket-less in his 4-over spell. Ashwin took 3 wickets, and Axar 1; Ashwin has turned into India’s best and most reliable bowler over the last 6 months, and has also proved – through his skill and technique – that Harbhajan Singh is living on reputation and borrowed memories. The first step the management should take is to drop the spinner and look towards the future. Or at least pick your best available spinners – like Amit Mishra!
5. JP Duminy is the monster created by our T20-league Frankenstein.
The captain of Delhi Daredevils, JP Duminy, is so used to Indian conditions by now that he seems to be on autopilot, and feels totally at home in the smaller grounds around the country. He enjoys the heat, pace and bounce across venues, just like AB de Villiers does – and India should be fearful of the fact that MOST of the side plays in the premier league as teams’ leading overseas players. Faff has played for CSK, Albie for Bangalore and CSK, AB for Bangalore, Duminy for DD, Tahir for DD, Miller for KXIP, Morris for RR…and so on. This experience could prove costly for the host nation, as they have an ODI series ahead. These leagues have now made home advantage an insignificant factor in shorter formats, and South Africa could very well be the ‘home favorites’ here.