Failed mission

The bubble has burst, shattering a billion dreams in the process. Never comfortable carrying the tag of pre-tournament favourites in any mega cricketing event, India played themselves out of the World Twenty20 Championships with a performance at once limp and mindless. Technically found out by England’s attack-minded fast bowlers who took a cue from the West Indian quicks and tactically found wanting as Mahendra Singh Dhoni stumbled from one illogical move after another, India’s second successive Super eight defeat at Lord’s on Sunday emphatically put an end to a campaign that seldom justified the hype. Dhoni might have temporarily nipped the weeds of discontent sown by the intrigue surrounding Virender Sehwag’s shoulder injury, but one-time Captain Cool will have to do a lot more than merely apologising to the fans if he is to regain his exalted status of the past.

Even Dhoni, who believes he has an answer to every question, was hard pressed to explain the elevation of the inexperienced Ravindra Jadeja ahead of proven match-winners as himself and Yuvraj Singh in Sunday’s must-win game. Tactically, it was as huge a blunder as had been the decision to persist with Ishant Sharma, clearly out of his depths in T20 cricket. The mistake was merely magnified by the profligate Delhi paceman being bowled out even as India’s best bowler of the night, R P Singh, and senior pro Zaheer Khan ended up with one over each up their sleeves. Jadeja must cop flak as much for his inability to force the pace as for not throwing his wicket away once the asking rate climbed alarmingly, but to blame him alone will be taking the easy way out. 

The top order again showcased its vulnerability against short-pitched bowling -- how humiliating it must be to be exposed thus in Twenty20 cricket! -- and when it was time for the established stars to take up the responsibility of guiding the team home because defeat meant catastrophe, a young lad was thrown to the lions with predictable results.

For some time now, Dhoni has been unrecognisable as the free-stroking destroyer of bowling attacks, having sacrificed brute power for the nip-and-tuck game. It was no surprise that when push came to shove, the big shots put away in cold storage would just not materialise. Just like Dhoni, the team too must rediscover itself, and return to the fearlessness of 2007 that took them to the inaugural T20 World Cup.  Where’s that Midas’ touch gone, MS?

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