ICC World T20 Cricket: Favourites Flop To Spin On A Turner, India Fail To Break The Jinx Against New Zealand!

Mitchell Santner 
It looked like a Test match on the last day (the third day could be the last day) on a rank turner with batsmen struggling for dear life. More specifically, it looked exactly like the last Test match played in this venue in November, 2015 between India and South Africa when the hosts won the series thanks to the rank turner and spin within three days. For the first match of the Super-10 stage of the ICC World T20 Championship the pitch in Nagpur was obviously out of ranks. Who knows it was perhaps gifted to Team India thanks to their known aversion to anything ‘green’. Only recently the ‘green’ offered in Pune worked disastrously for the Australia bashers as they perished to a shock defeat against a lifeless Sri Lanka in the first match of the domestic T20 Series that they eventually won 2-1. Whatever be the pitch issue, it was New Zealand who prepared perfectly for it including three spinners in the team and batting with a definite plan. The so-called masters of spin in the land of spinners called India in fact perished completely to spin giving 9 wickets to New Zealand spinners for just 44 runs whereas the glorious Indian spinners accounted for only 3 wickets for 74 runs.

If the rank turner was indeed a ‘gift’ then it was naturally expected India won the toss which Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not achieve and that perhaps sealed the game. Opting to bat first New Zealand had a menacing start with two huge sixes in the very first over by spinner R Ashwin, and of course losing a wicket too in the bargain. Reading the pitch well the Kiwis continued to go after the bowlers trying to score as much as possible despite losing wickets at regular intervals. However, the Indian bowling attack that picked up from the last ODI against Australia in Australia last year with the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah did quite well on Tuesday, the 15th of March, 2016 to restrict the visitors to 126/7 in allotted 20 overs. The effort was ably supported by excellent ground fielding. The target of 127 did not look that formidable considering Indian batting depth and the consistently performing top order. But as it transpired the hosts apart from not preparing well for the ‘gift’ did not even read the signs well when New Zealand was batting.

And the Indian batsmen perished one after the other—in a most humiliating and school-boy fashion failing to anchor even a single partnership. The top of the three Kiwi spinners, Mitchell Santner captured 4 wickets for just 11 runs. Team India crashed to their second lowest ever T20 total of 79 runs conceding a defeat by a huge margin of 47 runs in low scoring match. The highest individual score was 30 by an aimless captain Dhoni who could not prevent the crashes all around him. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli fell to atrociously casual shots. Team India thus could not break the no-win jinx in T20 format against New Zealand giving the latter the 5th consecutive victory. The Scorecard: 

Team India started their ICC World T20 campaign after winning 7 matches on the trot—two matches in the Series against Sri Lanka and all five matches in the Asia Cup-2016 winning the record 6th title defeating a spirited Bangladesh in the final in Dhaka and before that a 3-0 whitewash against Australia in Australia—as deserving hot favourites. This shock defeat could be an aberration to be forgotten quickly as some people are saying this was due to perhaps overconfidence. India have already discovered their winning eleven and they have it in them the potential and the firepower to regroup immediately for the following matches including the big one against Pakistan on 19th March in Kolkata. They cannot afford to lose one more. The Indian bowling attack now is good. And if the top order continues to perform consistently as ever with necessary support from the middle then Team India could still be invincible.

However, one concern remains. If Nagpur gives the indication of the pitches for the upcoming matches then God save the tournament and God save the spin-toned home team. In fact, such pitches defeat the very purpose of the shortest format. The Asia Cup-2016 was also a dampener as most of the matches were low scoring. The home teams concerned must always rise above their ‘own backyard’ bias for the larger interest of the tournaments and cricket. It’s the spirit of an international competition that lends so much credibility to the ICC World T20 despite being played in the shortest format. Let the spirit prevail. 


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