Muddled selection, some poor form, a lot of dot balls and not enough wicket-taking options saw India exit before the semi-finals.

India T20 World Cup performance
Virat Kohli captained India in 95 ODI matches, with 65 wins. (Credit: BCCI)

And so, India bowed out of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup before the semi-finals, having won their last three games in a row but ultimately paying the price for heavy defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand.

Members of the setup, such as bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and outgoing bowling coach Bharat Arun, have mentioned bio-bubble fatigue and scheduling as factors in India’s disappointing run in the UAE, but there is far more to the picture.

India, led by Virat Kohli in his last assignment as T20I captain, entered the World Cup with high hopes but found themselves facing early elimination after losing their first match to Pakistan. That made the second match against New Zealand virtually a quarter-final, and once India were beaten there, it was all over to net run rate (NRR) and Afghanistan having to beat New Zealand.

Here are the factors behind India’s poor performance.

Selectors did not pick an IPL XI

Yes, when India’s squad for the T20 World Cup was announced, the main core were in England during a Test series and the UAE leg of the IPL had not begun. But the BCCI had a chance to tinker with the squad before the World Cup began, and made just one change: they put Axar Patel into the pool of reserves and bumped up Shardul Thakur into the main squad.


Had the think-tank taken cognisance of the fact that success in the UAE leg of the IPL counted for plenty come the World Cup, they would picked more performers from the recent IPL.  And had India selected an XI based on IPL success, then Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma would not have fit into their staring lineup at the World Cup. Instead, Harshal Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Avesh Khan and Ruturaj Gaekwad should have been picked.

Harshal Patel IPL hat trick
Not having a death overs bowler like RCB’s Harshal Patel hurt India. (Credit: BCCI/IPL)

But this is Indian cricket, where XIs are picked more on reputation. There was no way they would drop a batsman of Rohit’s stature, even if he could barely middle the ball during the UAE leg of the IPL. Rohit started the tournament with a golden duck against Pakistan, and then should have bagged another versus New Zealand except that his Mumbai Indians team-mate Adam Milne put down the catch at long leg. Two failures for Rohit added to India’s misery, and by the time the batsman hit form it was a case of too little, too late.

Shami had one good match out of five, and clearly Bhuvneshwar was nowhere near his best, coming off a poor run for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the UAE, where he managed six wickets from six matches at 54 apiece and an economy rate of 7.04 an over.

The Hardik Pandya conundrum

Pandya’s fitness has made more headlines than his performances this year, which says it all. His place in India’s World Cup squad, given the little amount of overs bowled in 2021, was already a point of debate. Against Pakistan, India picked Pandya as a batsman and then batted him below Ravindra Jadeja after early wickets fell.

Against New Zealand, Pandya batted at No 6 and made 23 from 24 balls. He returned to bowling in that game too, and conceded 17 runs in 12 balls. Up against Afghanistan, Pandya was sent in at No 4 after a 140-run start and clubbed a vital 35* from 13 balls, replete with four fours and two sixes. He then bowled two overs for 23 runs.

Hardik Pandya T20 World Cup
Hardik Pandya at the T20 World Cup: 69 runs in three innings and 0 wickets in four overs. (Image: Twitter)

How do you assess his all-round performances in the World Cup? And how do you justify his inclusion as an allrounder when he bowled so few overs, and in those four overs conceded 40 runs? In hindsight, India gained very little from playing Pandya in the tournament. His batting role could have been played by Ishan Kishan, and his overs amounted to nothing.

Dot balls add to India’s woes

Losing early wickets against Pakistan was a big setback no doubt, but their batsmen consuming 43 dot balls was equally problematic. After that, India consumed a whopping 52 scoreless deliveries during the loss to New Zealand in Dubai. That is almost nine overs of dot balls in a T20 match. The ‘rotating the strike’ emphasis that Kohli keeps talking about what nowhere to be seen, especially against the spinners, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi. The pitch for that match had nothing alarming in it, and yet India failed to hit a single boundary during overs seven to sixteen – that is 71 deliveries.

These two sorry performances meant that India had to score heavily against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia. That they did, courtesy a torrent of boundaries, but not scoring enough versus Pakistan and New Zealand ended up being the biggest factor in India’s disappointing run.

Unpopular opinion: Shami isn’t a T20 bowler

Shami is not a natural fit in T20 cricket. India have to accept that. The T20 World Cup stats show that Shami finished India’s campaign with six wickets at 23.33 apiece from five matches, with an economy rate of 8.84 per over. Look closer, and those six wickets came in two matches. Shami took a pasting at the hands of Pakistan – 43 runs in 3.5 overs – and then bowled a solitary over against in the loss to New Zealand, which went for 11. He ended the tournament with figures of 0/39 from four overs against Namibia.

Mohammed Shami T20 World Cup
Mohammed Shami was terrific against Scotland, but lacklustre overall. (Credit: ICC)

Sandwiched between three wicketless and expensive outings (93 runs in 9.5 overs), Shami took 3/32 versus Afghanistan and 3/15 versus Scotland. In the win over Afghanistan, where India after posting 210 needed to restrict their opponents to 147 to improve their net run rate, Shami’s first three overs cost 27. It was his final over – the 19th of Afghanistan’s innings – in which he claimed two wickets for five runs, that made Shami’s evening seem impressive.

The problem has been Shami’s lengths. Too often he slipped the ball down the pads and offered hit-me length deliveries. Which is surprising for a bowler of his experience, who was coming off the IPL in the UAE. When he got it together in the match versus Scotland, starting with a terrific maiden over, Shami was electric. But one telling match out of five, that too in a World Cup, is not good enough. Shami is 31 and has plenty to offer India in Test cricket. In T20s, though, he has to go if India are serious about winning next year’s World Cup in Australia.

Written by Jamie Alter

Sports writer, author, actor, anchor, digital content creator and TedX Talks speaker.


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