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India must get over their mental block in ICC knockout games 

  • The last time India won an ICC title was way back in 2013, when the men captured the Champions Trophy in England
  • India have lost eight knockout matches in a row in ICC tournaments -- 4 finals and 4 semi-finals
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 22 Mar 2020, 01:27 IST

India v New Zealand - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Semi-Final
India v New Zealand - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Semi-Final

Indian women team’s abject surrender in the ICC World T20 final to Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MGC) earlier this month was the latest in the growing list of meltdowns by Indian cricket outfits in major ICC events. Although the women’s team, led by Harmanpreet Kaur, remained undefeated in the group stage, which put them in the final following the washout against England in the semi-final, they succumbed to the Aussies on the day that mattered the most. What was most disappointing, more than the loss itself, was the manner of defeat as India did not turn up at all and failed to put up any kind of resistance. 

Earlier, in February, another Indian squad, the 2020 U19 World Cup team could not succeed in bringing the trophy back home. The defending champions went into the tournament as favourites and reached the final with a crushing win over arch-rivals Pakistan in the semis. Yet, on the big day they stumbled. Despite having a quality batting attack, a young Indian side could not handle the pressure and managed to put up only 177 runs on the board. It was never going to be enough. A mature Bangladesh eventually chased down the total and stunned the Indians. 

If we take out India’s victory during the U19 World Cup in 2018 under Prithvi Shaw in New Zealand, it has been a story of heartbreaks, especially for the senior teams, both men and women. The last time India won an ICC title was way back in 2013, when they captured the Champions Trophy in England by defeating the hosts in a low-scoring final. Since, India have lost eight knockout matches in a row in ICC tournaments -- 4 finals and 4 semi-finals.

It all began in the 2014 World T20 final where India struggled to post a decent total batting first as Yuvraj Singh made that infamous 11 from 21 balls. Indian women’s loss in the 2020 World T20 final became the latest addition to the worryingly rising list.

Big names flopping a concern 

Kohli walks back after being dismissed by Mohammad Amir in the 2017 Champions Trophy final
Kohli walks back after being dismissed by Mohammad Amir in the 2017 Champions Trophy final

A shocking pattern emerges if we take an in-depth look at the performance of the big names in the eight knockout games that ended in losses for India. While Yuvraj struggled to get going in the World T20 final in 2014, Virat Kohli played a horrendous shot against a Mitchell Johnson bouncer in the 2015 World Cup semi-final against Australia at Sydney. Kohli managed only 1 from 13 in the same match where his competitor for the best batsman in the world, Steve Smith, smashed 105 from 93.

Kohli's poor form in ICC knockouts continued as he managed only 5 in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final against Pakistan, and 1 in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, a failure which added to his atrocious record in ICC knockout matches. For the uninitiated, the Indian captain’s highest in a 50-over World Cup knockout game is 35 back in the 2011 World Cup final. 

Not only Kohli, the other prominent star performers have also been constantly faltering in do-or-die encounters. In the 2017 Champions Trophy final, opener Rohit Sharma was dismissed without scoring while the in-form Shikhar Dhawan, who was the batsman of the tournament, managed only 21. Further, in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against the Kiwis, Rohit was dismissed for merely one. This was after he had smashed a record five centuries in the league stage, including three in a row heading into the semis at Manchester. 

Same story for women 

Final - ICC Women
Final - ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup: India v Australia
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The case hasn’t been too different for the eves as well. Star opener Smriti Mandhana was back in the hut for 0 in the 2017 World Cup final at Lord’s against England. She managed 34 in the 2018 World T20 final, also against England, but only 11 in the recent World T20 final against Australia at the MCG as India faltered in the chase of 185.

Significantly, while Harmanpreet Kaur managed a hard fought 51 in the 2017 World Cup final, she was dismissed for just 16 and four in the last two World T20 knockouts -- semi-final in 2018 and final in 2020. It will be pertinent to note here that Kaur has been the skipper of the team on the last two occasions. 

The above stats, which reveal a sad tale of Indian cricket, make it amply clear that the players and team as a whole seem to get stuck in a rut when it comes to knockout games in ICC tournaments. They will need to get out of their psychological block to attain glory again. There is no doubt that the Indian teams have the talent. Mental conditioning is what they need to work on. 

Published 22 Mar 2020, 01:27 IST
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