CLOSE-IN: T20 World Cup 2022 was a 'Comedy of Errors'

YAJURVINDRA SINGH

 

The play 'The Comedy of Errors', written by William Shakespeare, is a title which is appropriate to the recently concluded T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia.


One should have got a clue about the roller-coaster ride that one was to experience from the very first match of the tournament, when Sri Lanka, the T20 Asian champions lost to Namibia. The next to tumble was West Indies, known for their T20 skills, against Scotland first and Ireland, thereafter. Sri Lanka managed to salvage their defeat by qualifying for the Super 12. However, the calypso-singing West Indian side had to exit in shame.

The uncertain rains in a few of the Australian cities did play a significant part in disturbing the schedules and the points table. This did create mayhem at the end, as the net run rate became an important factor for a team to consider seriously.

The close contest between sides and the uncertainty of the results made the T20 format of the game an exciting one to follow. The differences that exist between sides playing the conventional form of the game, Test cricket, no longer applied. The risk-oriented and aggressive approach by the players led to situations wherein a team's fortune changed dramatically. The famous cricket saying that "a match is not over till the last ball is bowled" was if not factually right, quite close in the case of several of the matches.

The biggest comedy that struck the tournament was when South Africa, in their final encounter to qualify for the semifinals, lost to the Netherlands. A victory would have sealed their place, but true to form, like all the World Cups before, they seemed to find a way to lose from what seemed like a certain victory.

"Choking" is the word that can be synonymous for all their defeats in the past. One was quite amused to read that the great Indian cricket star, Kapil Dev, one gathers, highlighted the fact and labelled the current Indian Team as 'Chokers'. He may be correct in his evaluation, as India, considered to be the leading cricketing side, have not won a single World Cup tournament in any of the formats of the game since 2011. India, boasting of champion players and a cupboard full of talented ones, have not shown the results expected of them.

The "India Shining" phrase that one fleetingly uses about the progress made by the Indian economy on the world stage is exactly one that Indian cricket is identified with.

The cricket world had identified India as a country that could field not one but three international-quality sides. They have done so against international teams in the past and are doing it against New Zealand at present.

The Indian side have been successful at home and overseas. The problem that arises is the choice that the selectors have to make to get the best team to represent them in the park.

The 'Sword of Damocles' seems to hang over every player's head. The pressure of the millions of fans and critics makes life of an Indian cricketer pretty tough. Virat Kohli fell victim to it when he went through a lean trot and one could see that in this tournament he ensured his individual success before venturing further.

Unfortunately, India's captain, Rohit Sharma, is in a similar dilemma as Virat Kohli as regards his batting form. His captaincy of the T20 side is under threat, although he was, before the World Cup defeat, looked at as a brilliant white-ball leader.

However for the record, he does have five IPL titles for Mumbai Indians under his belt. The name of Hardik Pandya is very prominently doing the rounds. Although he was a successful captain of the Gujarat Titans, leading a franchise side vis-a-vis an Indian one, is like comparing chalk and cheese.

Similarly, KL Rahul is under intense scrutiny by the same critics who a few months ago were praising him to high levels. One is worried for the new pin-up batter of India's T20 format, Suryakumar Yadav. A few failures are all that will take to crush his confidence and innovative skills.

The brutal attack by one and all after the Indian cricket loss shows the immaturity of their followers.

Indian cricket has players who are of international standard and can fill every slot admirably. The problem that arises is optimising it in the final selection. India, apart from a close loss against South Africa, were sailing smoothly till the semifinals. This was a similar pattern in the ODI World Cup in England in 2019. India qualified as the top side in their group and were defeated, thereafter, in the semifinal. In both these situations, the Indian think-tank failed to assess the situation and conditions well.

The IPL pattern of the last four teams' knock-out format, one feels, would have suited India well. The top two teams should play the first semifinals and the loser should play the winner of the other two qualified sides. After all, finishing at the top should have some advantage.

India, then, would have had that extra match to get over their loss. A thought for the ICC to ponder over in the future.

"Horses for courses" has now become the ideal way forward in selecting a side for white-ball cricket. England, the winners of the T20 World Cup, had luck on their side. They lost to Ireland and their most crucial match against Australia was washed out. They just about scraped past Sri Lanka because of the man who stood out like a knight in shining armour, Ben Stokes.

The foremost all-rounder in present-day cricket, he stood like a rock to take his country to victory. He did it in the ODI World Cup 2019 and now in the T20 WC 2022. A man who had the guts to highlight and overcome his mental issues as well. One doffs ones hat to him, Sir Ben Stokes!

The man who became the leading star in this comedy of errors.

{Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer)

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