Team India have historically taken it slow in the initial overs of ODIs before accelerating at the end with wickets in hand. However, their cautious approach on a flat Pune wicket turned out to be their Achilles Heel, as England thumped them by six wickets to level the series.
“India, with two of the greatest white-ball batters there have ever been in their top three — Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli — try to bat normally through the first powerplay. It's not as if they are slouches when it comes to strike rates, but they take their time and soak up pressure. It's old-fashioned, 50-over cricket from five years ago. It's almost as if they are playing a 30-over game initially in which they are intent on keeping wickets in hand, followed by a Twenty20 innings.”
The shortcomings of India’s batting approach were evident on Friday when they played out England’s spinners with caution. The hosts scored 169 runs for one wicket between overs 11-40.
In contrast, England’s attacking approach saw them plunder 258 runs in the same period for the loss of three wickets. England’s blitzkrieg in the middle overs unsettled Team India’s bowlers and made the 337-run target look like a walk in the park.
Slow powerplays have been a recurring theme of Team India’s batting this series, with the hosts scoring just 39/0 and 41/2 in the first ten overs in the two ODIs.
Nasser Hussain observed how Team India’s watchful batting at the top prevents them from getting above par totals, while England's gung-ho style allows them to do exactly that.
“Both these teams have very watchable batting line-ups, but there is an intriguing difference between them. While India play to get a par score most times, England look to go above par every time. They (India) see the game so differently. In contrast, England's approach is to see each of those allotted 50 overs as an opportunity to score.”
Nasser Hussain explains where Team India got it wrong in the second game
Despite their slow start, Team India picked up the pieces with a stunning assault in the last ten overs. The hosts scored 126/3 in this period, as they stepped up the scoring rate significantly at the death.
Nasser Hussain admitted Team India’s batting lineup, which is stacked with power hitters at the end, helps them achieve such performances in the final overs. But Nasser Hussain referred to Friday’s game as an example of how that approach may not always be the best one. He remarked in this regard:
“On Friday, they were only two wickets down when they hit that final 20, and they know they have Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya in their middle order, who can go ballistic during that period. The problem with setting things up in this way for such a big last ten overs — even though India scored 126 — is that it invariably takes them to a par total.”
Nasser Hussain believes Team India’s cautious approach may be due to the lack of an aggressor at the top of the order. He also feels the absence of Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, England’s premier death bowlers, may have prompted Team India to play cautiously at the start before going all-out at the death.
“One of the reasons they still play like this is that they are yet to introduce a hitter into their top order — such as Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav. Another reason, perhaps, is that they know England are lacking their death bowlers, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes,” said Hussain.
India and England have stuck by their traditional batting styles in the first two games of the series. With the series now level at 1-1, it remains to be seen which approach results in a series win.