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'Kohli doesn't know how to win tournaments': Why India need a rethink

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Roar Guru
1st November, 2021

The Indian team is facing elimination from the T20 World Cup.

There are already jokes on the internet that World Cup in 2022 will have a quarter-final to ensure India moves into the knock-out stages.

Joking apart, India’s poor performance in the super 12s has come as a big surprise. Every commentator had India as one of their favourites to reach the knock-out stages of the tournament.

What could be the reasons for this abysmal performance of the Indian team in this T20 World Cup?

Picking up an out-of-form team
The core of this Indian T20 team are the players from the Mumbai Indians IPL franchise: Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Surya Kumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar.

This same set of guys form the core of the Mumbai Indians team as well in the IPL. With this kind of lop-sided representation, the lack of form of the Mumbai Indians’ team in the just-concluded IPL portended this Indian team’s fortunes in the World Cup.

This composition of the Indian team is one of the reasons why Virat Kohli went to the Mumbai Indians’ dugout during the IPL and tried to cheer up Ishan Kishan when he was struggling for form.

Picking players based on the past form rather than the near-term form is a big danger in T20. A batter cannot use two overs to find form in the middle; a bowler cannot bowl two overs to get his rhythm.

Virat Kohli.

(Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)

After having seen the players’ struggles in the IPL, the Indian selectors should have opted for some changes in the team by bringing in-form players like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yuzvendra Chahal and Deepak Chahar in place of some of the struggling players.

Cricket at the highest level is a mind game, and form is ultimately a mental thing.

The luck of the draw and the toss
India playing the two better teams in their group first up might have prevented the team from easing their way into the tournament.

India versus Pakistan is good for the tournament to kick off in style. However, both teams would have preferred to start their tournament with some easier games.

Even if you beat Namibia or Scotland in your first set of games, it does give a positive feeling for the team going into the business end of the group stages.


On the flip side, if you succeed like Pakistan have done in this tournament in beating the three top teams in the group, your confidence ends up sky high going into the knock-outs.

Virat Kohli rarely seems to win important tosses. There is an overwhelming statistical advantage for the teams batting second in the UAE. From the television, it is not clear what the reason could be for this lop-sided statistic.

In India’s game against Pakistan, we could see the dew impacting the bowling in the second innings. However, in the matches that Afghanistan played against Pakistan and the India and New Zealand game, there was no dew on the ground to impact the bowling in the second innings.

New Zealand bowled tight lines and lengths, and the Indian team’s pusillanimity at the top allowed them to stay on those tight lines.

(Photo by Michael Steele-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Mental fatigue
The Indian team has many of their top players playing all three forms of the game. Some of them are captains of their IPL franchises as well.

Living in COVID bubbles for six months, constantly being under pressure to perform, will impact players. You could see the fear of failure written large on the Indian batsmen’s faces when they played against the Kiwis.


Even Rishabh Pant, who dances down the wicket in Test matches despite the team being seven down for 100 runs to smash bowlers, appeared circumspect.

The untimely social media-created Mohammed Shami episode seems to have added more fuel to the mental disintegration of this team. You have never seen the Indian players react to off-field controversies during a tournament.

Though correct, Virat Kohli’s statement in the media shows a group that had taken in additional mental pressure reacting to these external events.

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Virat Kohli’s captaincy
There is something wrong with Virat’s captaincy in white-ball cricket. The long list of failures in the ICC tournaments’ knock-out stages and the IPL shows that he does not know how to win tournaments.

Lack of talent is not an excuse that Virat can give for his failures as captain. It must be the way he impacts the team’s mental aspect that must be the reason for the team’s failures in the knock-out stages.


If the fear of failure that we saw last night is any indication, Virat’s methods seem to hurt the players when under pressure.

Virat Kohli at training.

(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

What is the way forward?
India’s T20 approach is too conservative. India’s record in T20 World Cup has been poor since the 2007 victory.

Virat Kohli, the fearless batsman, carried the team in 2014 and 2016. Even in 2016, India was just three balls away from elimination. India needs to re-think their T20 cricket.

The Indian batting with such luxury of talent can’t be this conservative in the power play. They allowed the Kiwi bowlers like Mitchell Santner to bowl tight.

Once you play yourself into a rut, the release shots don’t go into the stands – they often are mistimed.

The selection has to be based on incoming form rather than record. The best team in IPL 2021 was the Chennai Super Kings. Apart from Ravindra Jadeja, there is no other CSK player in the XI.


The selectors should have picked more players from the CSK franchise rather than sticking to the out-of-form team. Winning is a habit. Having more players with that winning feeling helps.

The new T20 captain needs to set the mental aspect right. With the media now using the Indian team for political purposes, the mental pressure on the team will be even greater. The new captain should find a way to relax and let the team play fearlessly.

England under Eoin Morgan bat aggressively and don’t mind getting shot out for less than 100. With this approach, they rarely have been shot out for under 100.

India is a batting-dominated team, and they have to maximise that weapon to win.