One word haunted India during their ultimately disappointing campaign in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 – Australia. From the time AB de Villiers won the toss in the final match of the Super Eights India knew exactly what they needed to do – keep South Africa to 121 or less – but hanging ominously over their heads was the specter of that eight-wicket defeat to Australia in the first match of the Super Eights.
In India’s post-mortem of the World Twenty20 that loss will feature heavily. It is there that the batting really stumbled, that MS Dhoni made the wrong call in dropping Virender Sehwag, and that the bowling was exposed. It was here that India failed to adapt. Questionable decisions from Dhoni, such as bowling R Ashwin for three straight overs at the start and keeping Irfan Pathan back until the tenth. It had briefly rained at the start of Australia’s reply yet Dhoni persisted with Ashwin, who was carted for 16 runs in his third over. Time and again Irfan has proven that he must be bowled heavily inside the first half of a Twenty20 innings – for proof, just check his IPL figures – but Dhoni waited too long. The result was a 19-run over and Irfan was banished to the outfield. That defeat to Australia changed India’s momentum drastically.
As Sourav Ganguly pointed out, winning World Cups is more than just winning games. It’s about ensuring your net run-rate is healthy, and being aware of scenarios, and fostering a winning attitude. After the 90-run win over England the team got carried away with playing five bowlers. It was a reaction to victory over a side known for playing spin weakly. There were fears that it would backfire against Australia and those fears came true when Watson and Warner tore the bowling apart.
That loss turned out to be India’s only defeat of the tournament – they finished with a 4-1 record – but so damning was its consequence that India were left to play catch-up since then. They beat Pakistan to buy themselves a lifeline in the second round but failed to put up enough runs when it most mattered. The result was another pre-semi-final exit in the World Twenty20 – India’s third in a row since they won the inaugural edition in 2007.
But. It is another word that attached itself unwelcomingly to this Indian side in the World Twenty20. They beat Afghanistan in the tournament opener, but it was an unconvincing one. Virat Kohli continued to scorch the run-charts but India’s openers kept struggling. India reshuffled their pack and blew England away but Dhoni admitted he had a problem of plenty. Five bowlers worked a charm but someone had to tell Sehwag he had to step aside. India made the Super Eights but were in the tougher pool. Sehwag was dropped and three spinners played but India were decimated. Pakistan were beaten but India had to beat South Africa handsomely. But, but, but …
Though they won four of five matches, India never resembled a champion Twenty20 side. The batting was too reliant on Kohli. He failed, India struggled to put up runs. The bowling was the worst of all Test-level teams in the tournament, and the manner in which Shane Watson and David Warner plundered the attack left its mark. Dhoni’s preference to give the ball to the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and Kohli before his lead spinner Ashwin – apart from the loss to Australia - was befuddling. All throughout the tournament, India struggled to look convincing as a unit.
The win over Pakistan, in the end, will merely allow India to point to an unbeaten record over the old foes in ICC tournaments. The narrow win over an already ousted South Africa will also ring hollow. India can point to four wins out of five, but they amounted to nothing.