remaining weak link: some disappointing stroke performances in the Powerplay.
Leading up to the World Cup, all the talk was about aggressive Powerplay stance. The openers were ordered to take a more combative approach at first, as it was felt that a slow start was one of the reasons India underperformed last year. World Cup T20 in the UAE.
However, the early summer conditions and the cold and humidity here in Australia has not really allowed such an approach, which has led to a shift of gears halfway through. The only direct beneficiary is Virat Kohli, who made it clear in the Asian Cup himself that he would take his time and work the ball around before raising the ante.
“I was desperate to do something that wasn’t in my game,” Kohli had admitted after the century against Afghanistan. “I can hit sixes if the situation calls for it, but I’m better at finding gaps and pushing boundaries.”
Should openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who have sometimes struggled to force the pace in the first six overs of this World Cup, adopt a similar clarity of approach? Simply put, given the circumstances, is it time for India to temper their Powerplay expectations and keep early wickets?
Against Bangladesh in Adelaide, with the ball in the round, India started tense against the pace of Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam and Hasan Mahmud. The first nine balls of India’s innings yielded just one run before Rahul Shoriful threw for a six over the square leg line.
Taskin’s third over again yielded just one run, with the bowler scanning the hallway with length balls. The over included a dropped catch as Rohit tried to maximize the impact on a slightly shorter throw to out, and Hasan Mahmud with a retarded square leg put in an uncomplicated chance.
Mahmud made up for it when he handed the ball the next time and again lured Rohit with a short throw out. The India captain played a shot from an out-of-form man: he looked for the uppercut, but found the fielder on the back mark. 11/1 in 3.2 overs. India ended up only 37/1 in the first six overs.
Rohit’s risky approach, something new for someone who has scored so many points by getting his eye in any form, was also seen against the Netherlands in Sydney: try as he tried, he couldn’t break free in the Powerplay, although he ended up getting a 39-ball 53 scored at 135.89.
After the game, Rohit, who scored 16 out of 16 balls in the Powerplay, went on to say: “I’m not completely happy with the way I hit. I wouldn’t say it was a perfect knock. Just to get some runs under my belt was good. I have to run, pretty or ugly, it doesn’t matter.”
It was the first real acknowledgment that his sword’s lack of runs was beginning to bother Rohit.
Against South Africa in Perth, a match India lost, Rohit was again the first to go (a 14-ball 15, 4.2 overs), the pull shot went awry again as Ngidi’s delivery went big on him. This time, India was reduced to 49/5 by the ninth over.
Against Pakistan, who won India, they were reduced to 31/4 by seventh over after KL Rahul and Rohit both fell within the first 3.2 overs. So there is clearly room for improvement in the first six overs.
Runs from Rohit’s knife could make all the difference in the knockouts, and the game in Zimbabwe is a good chance for Rohit to get longer innings. his personal worst IPL ever with the bat (268 runs, 14 games, SR 120.18). However, there was a match-winning 20-ball 46 in the clipped match against the Aussies in Nagpur that made it into the World Cup.
In his last 8 T20Is, the best Rohit has done in the Powerplay is a 25-ball 29 against South Africa in Guwahati. Six times he has failed to exceed 20. He wants to attack and pays the price.
“Playing on purpose is always the goal,” batting coach Vikram Rathour said before the game in South Africa. “(But) we are also looking to adapt. I don’t think these are 200, 200-plus wickets.”
If India’s openers can stay through the Powerplay, they may be able to reap big dividends later on.