The fireworks galore, Dada has wasted no time and minced no words in setting the Indian cricket team straight. The newly elect and about to be officially crowned Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President and former India captain Sourav Ganguly said he would like to see the Indian team management focus on winning more ICC tournaments and that is an area he would like skipper Virat Kohli to address. “My only thing is that they need to win big tournaments. They are not going to win every time but they have gone through seven tournaments without winning one,” Ganguly told reporters at the iconic Eden Gardens on his arrival to the city from Mumbai after the BCCI meeting amid much fanfare. “They are a much better side than that. That is an area they need to get ready mentally. Talent is enormous. We reached the World Cup semis. That’s an issue which Virat needs to address. It doesn’t happen in the boardroom,” added Ganguly, clearly wanting better performance from the champion side that seems to be faltering at the last hurdle. India last won an ICC tournament in 2013 when the M.S. Dhoni-led side beat England in the final of the 50-over Champions Trophy.
If you look at the statistics closely, it will not take you much time to realise the fact that the Men In Blue do not have a good record in ICC knockouts since 2014. It is to be noted that India has faced defeat in five big high-pressure knockout matches in ICC tournaments in the last five years. In 2014, India lost in the T20 World Finals against Sri Lanka, where Yuvraj seemed to not connect bat with the ball at all and Nuwan Kulasekra and Lasith Malinga produced a superlative death bowling performance. In 2015 World Cup organised by Australia and their Tasmanian neighbour New Zealand, India reached semi-finals of the mega-event but they failed to get past Australia, who went on to ultimately win the coveted trophy. And again in 2016 T20 WC, India lost to the Carribean team of West Indies despite scoring a mammoth 192 batting first.
In 2017, the Men In Blue lost in the final of ICC Champions Trophy Final against arch-rivals Pakistan. In ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, India was deemed as one of the favorites to lift the trophy and the Virat Kohli led team looked in superlative form in the group stage. But they failed to perform well when it mattered the most and were defeated by New Zealand in the semi-finals of the quadrennial event. Besides this, the form of Indian skipper Virat Kohli in the knockout games has not been up to the mark and that is one of the reasons why many ardent cricket fans are demanding that Rohit Sharma must be made the captain of Indian ODI side courtesy his stellar franchise-captaincy record. Interestingly, in 2015 WC, Kohli had got out on 1 trying to pull the fiery Mitchell Johnson and similarly in the 2019 WC Semifinal, he got out with a booming in-swinging delivery of Trent Boult on a paltry score of 1, yet again. Two world cup semi-finals on a trot and the same score, surely Kohli has his task out here. It is also interesting to note that Virat failed to score a hundred in the 2019 World Cup in England even after getting starts in nearly every game.
The middle-order conundrum that was prevailing much before the World Cup began, carried on to the showpiece event and it finally came down to haunt India in the semi-final. The decision of promoting Dinesh Karthik up the order in a high-pressure chase was not the wisest of decisions either. Also, the tactical decision of bowling first in a big match such as the CT17 final against arch-rivals Pakistan still makes cricket pundits scratch their heads as to why Kohli took such a hara-kiri decision on a flat pitch. There is an age-old cricketing adage that goes on like “Nine times out of 10 when you win the toss, you should bat first. The other time, you should think about bowling – then bat first.” Surely Kohli needs to keep this in mind for the next big knockout game and bat first unless and until the pitch is full of grass and bounce and the conditions are overcast/swingy.
It seems like the nerves are getting better of the modern Indian team which looks invincible in bilateral series’ and performs exceptionally well in league stages of ICC tournaments but is not able to get over the line when it matters the most. Big matches require more than just skill and talent, it is a mental game in such situations and the Indian team needs to work on its temperament and be tactically-nuanced at all times so as to overcome this problem. With Ganguly at the helm of affairs in BCCI, Virat Kohli and his men would be under serious observation as we have seen, Dada always means business and he would not be expecting anything less from the team than a shiny silverware ICC trophy in the cabinet.