Yuvraj Singh scored a 21-ball 11 in the ICC World T20 2014 final © Getty Images
By Baiju Joseph
Many Indian fans were pretty sure that India would roll over Sri Lanka with ease in the ICC World T20 2014 final. Such has been the amount of cricket played between these two sides and such has been the domination India has exercised over them in the recent past. But the signs were there. First India lost against them in the Asia Cup 2014 and then they lost in the World T20 warm-up match. Somewhere, an indication of sorts was placed and if the Indian team took it lightly then one can guess the results are there for everyone to see.
Two prime factors which led to India losing the match on April 6 were:
1. The untimely dismissal of Rohit Sharma
2. The innings of Yuvraj Singh
India were going at a decent rate and at that time had Rohit Sharma not tried for an unwanted boundary, things might have pushed on for a little longer. If the partnership with Virat Kohli had passed over the 13th over, Suresh Raina would have come in and things would have been slightly different from how it turned out. We may never know.
Till the time Rohit was there, the batting was set to achieve a good total but just at the most crucial moment, he threw away his wicket. Time and again, Rohit has brought about his own downfall and India have suffered.
However, this fact was barely noticed because of the innings Yuvraj Singh played coming in at No 4. To his discredit, the man with the third-highest strike-rate in Twenty20 Internationals ate up 21 deliveries to dole out a paltry 11 runs. Now we all know how great a player he is, but recently he has been out of form. As former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar rightly mentioned, he was never comfortable even in the 43-ball 60 he hit against Australia. The signs were obviously there but MS Dhoni, the captain over the years has developed a penchant to play on a hunch. This time he thought that giving Yuvraj enough overs would prove to be a master stroke. But Alas! For the first time in many occasions, Dhoni was wrong and it backfired in such a way that the Kohli was left facing only eight deliveries out of the last four overs at the other end. This is where the match turned on its head. The total which looked like crossing 160 after the 10th over, wriggled and stagnated to reach only 130 for four.
With so less on the board, even the best in the world would have struggled, yet India managed to eke out four wickets in the process and pushed the inevitable till the 18th over. But in the end, India lost by six wickets with 13 deliveries to spare.
Cricket is about evolution and execution. It’s about mastering the game and playing the game better the next day. If India were classy in demystifying the likes of Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga in the past, the Lankans have now gone a step further and have exposed the Indian batsmen and their weaknesses. The author would rather say that the brand of death bowling on display in the final was so superior that even the best in the world on their day would have suffered. The fact that only four Indian wickets were taken in the innings, was a testament of their effectiveness. Yet it was no rocket science. It was simple, it was straight, it was full on the fifth stump and it was nothing fancy at all. So, it’s clear, Sri Lanka learned their lessons from the past, evolved, came up with better plans and executed them to perfection.
India on the other hand, need to take some hard decisions and look out for a proper No 4 batsman, who could replace Yuvraj. Any attempts to resurrect his career would only cause deeper and more complicated problems. Yuvraj was selected in the squad because of his performance in the last T20I India played, where he hit a magnificent 70 against Australia. But we forgot that almost four limited-overs tournaments and three away tours have passed on since that knock and he has done nothing to prove to the selectors about his form in the meantime. His inclusion was solely on reputation, which probably has suffered a huge dent now.This should tell the selectors to include players who are good on form and not just on paper. It will not only motivate the incumbents to work harder, but will also lead to a pool of talented cricketers who can be replaced by the other in case one drops in form or is injured.
The author must assure everyone that there are no ill feelings for one of the best limited overs professional the country has ever produced. Even with the result, Yuvraj, the icon has lots to offer to Indian cricket. However, ‘6 sixes in an over’ has been long gone and Yuvraj Singh the player needs to rediscover himself before he can wear the blue jersey yet again.
(Baiju Joseph is a Bangalore-based Junior Scientist at a Bio-Informatics firm who is deeply passionate about cricket and likes to bowl fast whenever he gets an opportunity to ply his cricketing skills)