Nothing can be more unpredictable than the game of cricket! At Mumbai, every Indian batsman got among runs and with Virat Kohli coming up with another masterful knock, India reached a challenging 192. They also succeeded in removing Chris Gayle early. This was what most Indians wanted. But India still lost the semifinal to a huge disappointment of a nation, who had pinned its hopes on Dhoni and company. These are the vagaries if this funny game. India had mixed luck in the game as Kohli couldn’t be run out twice in ninth over but at crunch time, when Lendl Simmons was caught twice, the replays showed the bowlers had overstepped. And it was Simmons, who stole the match from India with a power-packed unbeaten 82 off 51 balls. In handing a sound thrashing to India, Sammy’s team announced that it didn’t depend merely on Gayle and there were others, who could rise to the occasion, when the need arose. Thursday night was one such occasion!
Darren Sammy won the toss and asked India to bat first. Shikhar Dhawan was left out of the line-up but Ajinkya Rahane did a good job. Rohit Sharma enthralled the Wankhede crowd with his shots and Rahane provided him good support in producing India’s best stand in this World Cup. But Rohit fell LBW in 8th over. This brought out the man everyone was waiting for. The strong-minded Virat Kohli was not weighed down by a heavy burden of expectations and began as if he had been resuming from his 82 not out against Australia. Here was a man, whose 2016 T-20 score-line read as 90*, 59*, 50, 7, 49, 56*, 41*, 23, 55*, 24* and 82*. He came out to bat on 12 occasions, remained unbeaten 10 times, scored 8 half-centuries and had 10 scores greater than 40. Therefore, the law of averages was against him in the crucial semifinal on Thursday but Kohli held on. India lost Rahane, when he tried to hoist Andre Russel and Dwayne Bravo celebrated the catch with his customary dancing. Somewhere around this time, India’s run-rate dipped. Badree tied the knots and finished by yielding just 26 off his 4 overs. Dhoni rightly promoted himself at no.4 and stage was set for two of India’s best runners in converting ones into two. Earlier, Kohli could have gone in the 9th over, as he set off for a bye after missing a no-ball but Ramdin failed to hit the stumps. West Indies had one more chance on the same ball but Bravo missed as well; lucky for Kohli and lucky for India. Dhoni and Kohli had 27 balls, in which to push India’s score. However, India’s scoring-rate had dipped earlier. 5 runs came of the 11th over, 7 off the 12th, 7 again off 15th and 6 off 16th. Regardless, India still reached 192/2 after 20 with Kohli notching up an unbeaten 89 off 47 balls with 11 fours and 1 six.
When West Indies came to chase, India yielded 6 runs in first over and sent Chris Gayle back to the pavilion in the second. They gained further foothold by also taking out Marlon Samuels in third over. At 19/2 at this stage, it looked like India’s game. Though Johnson Charles and Lendl Simmons were scoring well, India were still in the game with the asking rate mounting up to 11 in the 9th over. Suddenly, the two West Indies batsmen broke loose and full tosses and long hops from ambitious Indian bowlers made their task easier. Dhoni asked Virat Kohli to bowl the 14th over and Kohli removed Charles. Now the balance tilted slightly in India’s favor as the required run-rate crossed 12. But Andre Russel joined Simmons in stepping up the scoring. After taking 18 off the 15th over, they maintained the tempo of scoring, as there was nothing venomous in India’s bowling and crossed the finish line with 2 balls remaining.
It was a sad end to India’s T20 championship aspirations, but they shouldn’t have underestimated the West Indies. In fact, lot of people felt that India’s total of 192 was short by 20-odd runs because they had their chances in death overs with plenty of wickets remaining. Amazingly, just 1 six came off Kohli’s bat and Dhoni couldn’t hit any. Ones and two are okay in middle overs but with balls running out, only the aerial shots add to the score. For the analysts, it may be of interest to note that there were 47 dot balls in West Indies’ innings compared to 26 when India batted and off the bad balls, while India scored twos and fours; West Indies went for fours and sixes. There were 11 sixes in West Indies innings compared to just 4 by India. That made the difference between victory and defeat on Thursday. West Indies go to Kolkata with boosted morale to take on England on Sunday. Having already beaten England earlier, when Gayle had come out with guns blazing, West Indies could have an upper hand if Gayle bats a few overs. In any case, an intriguing contest is on cards.