India's exit from World T20 2016 was unexpected although it surprised many as how they survived the previous two matches, especially against Bangladesh who suffered a heart-breaking loss from a winning position. After such topsy-turvy matches Indian fans were ready for anything and in a way this ultimately helped legion of fans to take the loss sportingly.
Such are the vagaries of prophesy, three of cricket’s past superstars got their gut-feeling wrong when they said India would make it to final. Chris Gayle got it correctly and precisely when he said Virat Kohli's splendid innings would go in vain!
Before the match there was so much of trepidation as to what Gayle could do, it was a tremendous relief when Jasprit Bumrah castled the great left-hander’s off-stump on the first ball he bowled. And when the old war-horse Ashish Nehra tricked Marlon Samuels to spoon a catch off a slower ball, Indians on the field, on the ground and billions across the world watching on TVs would have thought the match was virtually over. Only Lendl Simmons thought otherwise.
Unfortunately, for India the match was over right then and there.
When fours and sixes flew off from batsmen in each over, there was an air of nonchalance bordering on indifference from the fielding team. There was no concern, no panic but a happy feeling that Gayle was out. With the fall of Gayle’s wicket India had wrongly created a euphoric feeling that the worst was over. Nobody could foresee what the hammering going on over after over would lead to. It was under such circumstances in a world cup semifinal two wickets that were taken turned out to be off no-balls. I am not sure whether it has occurred twice in a match and for the same batsman. Simmons twice came back to bat after getting ‘out’ off no-balls. He was going to make India pay for the profligacy.
Simmons, who was watching West Indies’ loss to Afghanistan at home on the TV a few days back, got a call from Clive Lloyd, asking him to reach Mumbai to replace injured Fletcher. Simmons, a Mumbai Indians’ IPL player who knows Wankhede like back of his hand, took two flights from across the globe, reached a day before the match, caught sleep intermittently and walked on to the field.
What Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma did Simmons did one better and kept hammering the ball all over the park.
It was only after they reached 100 there was a concern that deluge of runs could not be plugged. The concern, which Dhoni showed while marshalling the field came tad too late, and a team that was celebrating Gayle’s dismissal suddenly realised amidst the avalanche of runs that their campaign for world cup could end. But by then it was too late.
No doubt West Indies forced a victory but with near 200 runs on the board India didn’t make a fight of it. No balls can be aberrations but surely 193-run was too big a target for a chasing team without their top stars. Simmons had just walked into the team for semifinals and there should have been a plan to unsettle him. As Simmons himself said later he was never sure they were going to make it as a wicket at any stage could change the complexion of the match.
Euphoria of Gayle’s wicket on one hand and partly losing the grip and utter belligerence of Simmons together cost India the match. Dew factor also played a large part and restricted effectiveness of India's spinners.
It is a pity the toss and dew become major factors for a side batting first as it becomes impossible to grip the ball, particularly for spinners making it a one-sided game. Keeping the commercial interest aside, ICC would do well to think about shifting semifinals and finals and make them a day match. It may rob some spectator interest but surely it should be given a try to make the match more meaningful, removing undue factors such as dew out of equation.
India for the first time had a decent start and built up a platform from which stroke makers like Virat Kohli and Dhoni could take the score to a target which was match-winning one. Kohli is in incandescent form and is playing in his zone and there is nothing that shakes his confidence. He could have been run-out twice in one ball with West Indies wicketkeeper and their best fielder Dwayne Bravo missing it from only few meters. Kohli should have been run out off the next ball yet again. It appeared the Gods themselves wanted to see him play!
Against India’s 192 for 2 in 20 overs West Indies scored 196 for 3 in 19.4 overs for a smashing win. Only Nehra could contain the batsmen with 1 for 24 off his 4 overs. Whether Ravichandran Ashwin could have contained the batsmen with his experience unlike Pandya had he bowled, was a moot point. But West Indies, given their mood, would have stopped at nothing on that day.
Who would win the final can only be a guessing game. Both teams have peaked at the right time. But you can always bet on West Indies pulling out something out from ordinary at any point of the game. Unpredictability is other name for T20 and West Indies are quite an unpredictable side on that score.