Before the Asia Cup, I had predicted that India would crash out after the group stages along with Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and that Sri Lanka would be favorites. So far, that has turned out to be true.
Sri Lanka have looked the best team in the tournament by a mile, with the others playing catch up. It would be unfair to harp on about the mediocrity of India, because they had their moments in both the big games against Sri Lanka and rivals Pakistan.
So what went wrong, again?
The openers, once again, struggled to get going- with one of them always looking iffy and consuming too many overs before throwing away wickets. Rohit is the main culprit here, and Dhawan is too restless at the crease.
The bowling, as we all know, has always been an issue. To their credit, they almost defended moderate scores against two good teams, until death bowling was exposed in a bad way. Bhuvaneshwar needs to be looked at again- his lack of pace letting the batsmen feel very comfortable against him. Sixes by Umar Gul and Afridi in his penultimate over against them (47th), pretty much sealed the game for the Pakistanis, who were self-destructing before that. A good last over by him was too little too late, leaving them to get 10 runs off Ashwin in the final over.
Dinesh Karthik has been the biggest disappointment of the Asia Cup. The Daredevils must be kicking themselves for spending a whipping 11 crore on him, because his batting has been juvenile, while his keeping has made Akmal look like Healy in comparison. His crucial missed-stumpings of Sangakkara and Maqsood simply cost his team both the important matches. Other options for Dhoni need to be explored in the long run.
Ashwin made up for his bizarre show against Bangladesh by bowling well against Lanka and Pakistan. He was unfortunate against Afridi in the final over, and those top edges would have been easy catches on any other ground. The problem is that he desperately needs the pitch to assist him, and even then, his lack of confidence in conventional off-spin is glaring.
Virat Kohli’s leadership has been stellar, despite the limited resources at his disposal. An untested middle order and a vague pace attack have not dampened his spirit, and he has inspired his team gamely on the field too, especially in the game against Pakistan.
Ravindra Jadeja has finally realized that he is a batting all-rounder, and has played handy knocks in this tournament. He is known to be harebrained, but a little bit of luck always takes him a long way.
Amit Mishra has been a revelation in the single match he played. He needs to be fitted in on Asian pitches more often, at the cost of Ashwin if need be.
Rahane’s fielding is a sight for sore eyes. He is slowly adapting to batting in the middle order too, though I still maintain he should be opening the innings, while Rohit needs to be pushed down again.
Barring a miracle in the Bangladesh-Pakistan game (not entirely impossible), India are out before the final of the Asia Cup for a second consecutive time. This is a new low for a team that was close to unbeatable in ODIs a year ago, and they have a lot to think about before the beginning of an extended T20 season.