Alarm raised by gun Indian team’s latest flop

Indian captain Rohit Sharma has questioned the ability of players in his team to handle the pressure of knockout matches after the semi final humiliation against England.

Sharma’s side headed into the semi finals of the T20 World Cup as the favorites to take out the tournament following a strong group stage showing, but proved to be no match in a 10-wicket loss to England.

The loss continued what has been a remarkable drought in knockout matches of global tournaments for India since winning the 2013 Champions Trophy.

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Since winning that tournament under legendary skipper MS Dhoni, which came following 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ODI World Cup wins, India has lost in either the semi final or final of a major tournament on seven occasions.

When Sharma was questioned by leading Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle about his side’s failure in knockout matches, his answer was telling.

“When it comes to knockout stages it’s all about handling that pressure,” Sharma said.

“It depends on the individual, as well, because you cannot really go and teach how to handle pressure. All these guys have played enough cricket to understand that.

“A lot of these guys when they come out and play those playoffs in the IPL and all of that – it’s a very high-pressure game and some of these guys are able to handle that.

“It’s about handling that pressure, holding yourself a little bit and keeping calm. I thought the way we started off with the ball was not ideal and that shows that we were a little nervous to start with.”

Despite Sharma appearing perturbed at his bowlers’ performance, he ought to look in the mirror following a scratchy 27 runs off 28 deliveries that resulted in a poor batting power play for India.

Sharma’s slow start proved to be the death knell for India, who scored just 38 in its first six overs compared to England’s 63 during the same period of its own innings.

It continued a worrying trend throughout a World Cup in which India’s run-rate during the batting power play was at a paltry six runs per over, with the team heavily relying on the likes of Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya to provide the boost in the back half of the innings.

That was never more obvious than in the semi-final. After ambling to 2-62 at the halfway mark of the innings, India pounded 106 runs in its final 10 overs courtesy of a brilliant 63 from Pandya which came off just 33 deliveries.

The failure to win a major global tournament in more than a decade has India at risk of wasting a golden generation of white-ball cricketers, with the likes of Sharma and Virat Kohli fast running out of time to add to their trophy cabinets.

Sharma has been one of the premier white-ball cricketers of his generation, but at 35 he is closer to the end of his career, and his form at the World Cup, where he managed just one score of above 30 in six innings ( 53 against the Netherlands) might cause selectors to rethink India’s approach moving forward.

Rishabh Pant, who has shown his ability to flip matches in all three formats time and again over the last 18 months, was left rotting on the sidelines as Sharma ate up balls at the top of the order. He eventually came in with a handful of deliveries left, ultimately sacrificing his wicket to get Pandya on strike. Could he be a potential opener moving forward?

There’s also the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill waiting in the wings. Of the 15 players India brought to Australia for the World Cup, 10 are aged 30 or over. At some stage, they must think about generation next.

The position of Sharma’s opening partner KL Rahul also has to be in question. Rahul fared a little better than his skipper at the World Cup, hitting a pair of half-centuries, but also failed to reach double figures in his other four innings.

The cracks in India’s top order were ultimately papered over by the brilliance of Kohli and Suryakumar, who were both stounding during the World Cup.

The additions of the injured pair Jasprit Bumrah, arguably the world’s finest paceman in the death overs, and Ravindra Jadeja, perhaps the most in-form all-rounder in the world, will no doubt have helped India in the semi-final. Could they have reversed the result? Probably not.

However, with a home ODI World Cup just 12 months away, the selectors have some big questions to answer if they want to send this golden generation off in the same way they sent Sachin Tendulkar off 11 years ago.

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