India’s innings from over no 44.6 to 49: 0.1.1.4.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.Wd.0.1.0.4.188.8.131.52
Two fours, 17 singles, four dot balls and a wide. The required rate was touching nearly 16 but India chose to go the singles route between the 46th and the 49th over. Hardik Pandya, who had given it a real go in his innings of 45 off 33, had been dismissed in the 45th over and the shutdown happened immediately after that.
It might be worth recollecting that India had five wickets in hand and five overs to go. But Mahendra Singh Dhoni [who ended up with 42 off 31, almost at a strike rate similar to that of Pandya] and Kedar Jadhav [12 off 13] decided to inexplicably shut shop.
Dhoni even refused a single in the last over. By that point, it didn’t really matter and the former skipper will probably rationalise the decision by saying India had no chance but frankly, the lack of intent at that point would have disappointed Virat Kohli more than anyone else.
It wasn’t just that period either. After 10 overs, India had just 28 on board for the loss of KL Rahul’s wicket. But a vital difference between this period and how India batted at the fag end was that at least the batsmen were trying. It wasn’t coming off, the timing was off but they were trying.
In sharp contrast, Dhoni decided it was over. The England bowlers just didn’t bowl anywhere close to Dhoni’s arc — they kept it outside the off-stump and mixed in a fair number of cutters and slower balls too — but the right-hander didn’t try and force them into doing something different either. From a man of his experience, better was expected.
Given how things eventually progressed, India might have been better served by calling the game off early. Even Mohammed Shami would have shown more intent than the two proper batsmen in the middle.
Losing has never been a problem for Kohli but he has always been more bothered about how the team loses and the message that sends out.
Intent has been the Indian skipper’s buzzword for a long time and it was during India’s tour of South Africa last year that he explained what it meant to him.
“Intent does not mean going out and start playing shots from ball one. Intent is there in a leave, intent is there is defending a ball. Intent is there is being vocal about calling out there in the middle. All those things count as intent,” Kohli had said.
Kohli had added: “Just the way your body language is, just the way you are thinking about the game. It shows. People can tell whether you are playing with intent or not. There will be tough moments but even the tough moments, one needs to overcome with intent.”
The pitch admittedly got more difficult to bat on as the match progressed but giving up on a chase feels very off at various levels. People could tell.
If nothing else, it was a chance for Jadhav to get going. He has done precious little in the tournament. In six matches, he has scored 80 runs at a strike-rate of 80.80 and India need him in fine fettle for the upcoming games. But the right-hander ended up with 12 off 13 balls.
A little more intent and India could have brushed this loss aside as a one-off and got on with life. But instead, it now seems like Kohli’s talk of intent has one true believer: himself.
The others come along in good batting conditions but the moment things get difficult, they move into self-preservation mode. And that is worrying. This isn’t how Kohli or even Ravi Shastri wanted to build this team.
On air, Ganguly perhaps said all that was wrong with India’s approach.
“You cannot be chasing 338 and still have 5 wickets in hand at the end. I would have been happy if India were bowled out for 300 if they were giving a go. Yes, England’s bowlers bowled well but the message had to be clear from the dressing room: no matter what the delivery, you have to find the boundary,” Ganguly said.
For now, India has scored a self-goal. They will look at it as just one loss but it could have larger implications on the campaign as a whole. Kohli said that they will sit down and assess where things went wrong. Perhaps a few harsh words might be in order too.