remaining weak link: some underwhelming batting performances in the Powerplay.
In the run-up to the World Cup, there was talk of an aggressive Powerplay attitude. The openers were tasked with adopting a more combative approach firstly as it was felt that a slow start was one of the reasons why India fared badly last year. T20 World Cup in the UAE.
The early summer conditions and the cold and damp in here Australia didn’t really allow for such an approach, resulting in a shift of gears in the middle. The one direct beneficiary has been Virat Kohli, who made it clear in the Asia Cup itself that he will take his time and work the ball around before making the lead.
“I was desperate to do something that was not in my game,” Kohli admitted after the century against Afghanistan. “I can hit sixes when the situation calls for it, but I’m better at finding gaps and hitting boundaries.”
Should openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who at times struggled to impose the pace in the first six overs in this World Cup, adopt a similar clear approach? Simply put, given the conditions, is it time for India to temper their Powerplay expectations and conserve early wickets?
Against Bangladesh in Adelaide, with the ball darting around, India got off to a blistering start 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 hit Shoriful over the square boundary for a six.
Taskin’s third over yielded just one run again, with the bowler probing the passage with length balls. The over included a dropped catch as Rohit looked to extract maximum from a slightly short-length delivery on, and Hasan Mahmud at backward square leg conceded a straightforward chance.
Mahmud made amends when he delivered the ball next, luring Rohit again with a short delivery outside off. India’s captain played a shot from an out-of-form man: he looked to top-cut but found the fielder at backward point. 11/1 in 3.2 overs. India eventually managed just 37/1 in the first six overs.
Rohit’s risky approach, which is something new for someone who has scored so many runs by getting his eye in whatever format, was also on display against the Netherlands in Sydney: try as he might, he could not break free in the Powerplay, though he ended up scoring a 39-ball 53 at 135.89.
After the match, Rohit, who scored 16 off 16 balls in the Powerplay, would go on to say, “I’m not completely happy with the way I batted. I wouldn’t say it was a perfect beat. Just getting a few runs under my belt was good. I have to get runs, nice or ugly it doesn’t matter.”
It was the first real admission that the lack of runs from his blade was beginning to bother Rohit.
Against South Africa in pace Perth, a game India lost, Rohit was again first to go (a 14-ball 15, 4.2 overs), the pull again going awry when Ngidi’s delivery went big on him. This time India were reduced to 49/5 in the ninth over.
Against Pakistan, which India won, they were reduced to 31/4 in the seventh over after KL Rahul and Rohit both fell within the first 3.2 overs. So clearly there is room for improvement in the first six overs.
Runs from Rohit’s blade can make all the difference in the knockouts, and the Zimbabwe match is a good opportunity for Rohit to get in a longer innings. Talk about Rohit’s T20 form not being up to date has been going on for months since he had his personal worst ever IPL with the bat (268 runs, 14 matches, SR 120.18). However, there was a match-winning 20-ball 46 in the truncated match against the Aussies in Nagpur in the World Cup.
In his last 8 T20Is, Rohit’s best in the Powerplay is a 25-ball 29 against South Africa in Guwahati. Six times he failed to cross 20. He wants to attack and pay the price.
“Playing with intent is always the goal,” batting coach Vikram Rathour said before the South African match. “(But) we are also looking to adapt. I don’t think it’s 200, 200 plus wickets.”
If India’s openers can stay through the Powerplay, they may reap big dividends later on.