‘You can’t execute [your plans] all the time. At that stage, you have to use your experience and accept the game as it is flowing and adjust accordingly, which as a team we try to do each single time’ – Virat Kohli © AFP
India came to Mohali in November under threat of having a dud home season, having lost the T20I series and ODI series to South Africa. In Mohali, they found home comforts that took them to the No. 1 Test ranking, and gave this team in transition the reassurance that they are good enough. They come back to Mohali unsure again.
This has been a World T20 where India have been cagey perhaps because of – or despite – their favoured conditions. They have stayed alive, which is definitely credit to them, against some really good bowling in two of their three matches, but they haven’t been able to play with the freedom they are known for.
This is not too dissimilar to what happened in the World Cup in 2011, where they started as the favourites, slipped up against South Africa, got away with a tie against England, but turned it on when it really mattered. They did just enough, but they won the World Cup. They have been doing just enough here too, and they can still win this World T20. In 2011, just like now, India’s match against Australia started a string of three must-win matches
Virat Kohli recognises that India have been made to work hard, and cherishes the fight shown by his team to stay alive. “It is very difficult to be very consistent as a team in this format,” he said. “I think you need to come to terms with that. Sometimes you need character from a few people to get you over the line and that’s exactly what happened in the last game. Spinners bowled beautifully, then Hardik [Pandya] holding his nerve in the end was brilliant for us. All the things we needed to do in the end, we did, pulling the game back. That’s a big positive for us.”
India also recognise a global tournament would tax them more than the Asia Cup and the earlier T20 matches since the start of 2016. “The World Cup is a very big tournament,” Kohli said. “Every team that plays, its skill levels are different from the other teams. In the Asia Cup, you need to focus only on three or four teams. In the World Cup, there are so many teams against whom you can play at any time, against whom you haven’t played the entire year. I think that is a challenge, how you adapt on the spot. Adaptability is very important.
India batsman Virat Kohli
“What we did in the first game, our adaptability was not to the standards we have set, but in the last two games we have adapted very well. We could have been bowled out for 125 against Bangladesh, but we fought and put up a fighting total,” Kohli added. “Obviously teams will test you, this is international cricket. It is not the kind of cricket where, because you have the reputation and the players, you are guaranteed of success. Anyone can upset anyone else and we have respected that in the last two games, and that’s why we were able to pull those games back.
“If we had relied only on our reputation and our confidence, we may not have been able to win those two games. We have looked at it as a humbling experience and the endeavour is to do the same things that we have been doing throughout the season, but you can’t execute [your plans] all the time. At that stage, you have to use your experience and accept the game as it is flowing and adjust accordingly, which as a team we try to do each single time.”
There will be home comforts, though. The pitch might not be a raging turner, but it would be slow considering the square in Mohali has been used quite a bit over the last two weeks. Additionally, Sunday is the only the second double-header at the same venue during the Super 10s. The men will play on the same surface the Indian and West Indian women will get for their evening game in Mohali.
Australia are not the most comfortable on used and slow pitches. They are also the team whom India whitewashed in a three-match T20I series not long ago. “If you look at how we have played this season, that [series] sort of was the catalyst for our consistent performances in this Twenty20 season so far,” Kohli said. “So obviously we can focus on the positive things that we did there against Australia, but we cannot take anything for granted. It’s a virtual quarter-final for us. We all know that, and it’s very important to stay in the moment, stay focussed on what we have to do. Why we were able to beat them in Australia is very important to remember. It’s not so much, ‘We have beaten them, so we can go out and do it again.’ It’s how we did it that we need to focus on.”
Memories have been refreshed, questions about sledging and respect have been answered, final mistakes have been made. As they did in 2011, India need to find ways to win three matches; and they have maintained they don’t always need to win pretty. “If you hit a six 60 metres or 90 metres, you still get a six,” Kohli said.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo