Abu Dhabi: India’s batting might never was in doubt. That’s why the capitulations against Pakistan and New Zealand were baffling. And those limp performances may have pushed India to a precipice in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Now they have to win all the remaining matches and expect some games in Group 2 to go in their favour.
So with the backs to the wall, India fought back with all cylinders firing. Even the loss of the toss against Afghanistan didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul batted with such assurance and authority that made the Ishan Kishan experiment against the Kiwis a folly.
When a team go into a World Cup after five years, there is ample time to experiment with several players and find the right combination. A bad loss to Pakistan made the New Zealand game an all-important fixture, and panic set in. All the best-laid plans in the run-up to the tournament were cast to the winds and the batting was rejigged only to falter again.
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So when the Afghan game came around, India went back to their original plan and how well it worked. True, the pace bowling was not in the same league and the wicket played true. But the Afghan spinners are a classy lot.
The batting at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium was textbook stuff on a good wicket. With the ball coming onto the bat very well, Sharma and Rahul blazed away in the powerplay and at the end of six overs, India were 53/0. When Sharma was out in the 15th over with the score reading 140, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya provided the finishing touches.
The result was the highest total in the tournament and India’s second-highest in T20 World Cups. With a score of 210, India couldn’t lose. And Afghanistan didn’t have the batting strength to challenge it. Even dew turned out to be a non-factor.
Another positive from the match is the return of Ravichandran Ashwin. The off-spinner has been in the cricketing wilderness after losing his place in India’s white ball squad. His return came due to an injury to mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy. So what happens when Chakravarthy comes back from injury. Maybe, India could play three spinners.
That could be a possibility if skipper Virat Kohli has enough faith in Pandya’s bowling. So far, it hasn’t been impressive. That means India have a bowling dilemma.
What’s reassuring for India is that the batting has come good. That will be key to Indian victories in the tournament.