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What is going wrong for India in ICC knockout games?

India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day
India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day
Deepak Emandi
CONTRIBUTOR

As Team India heads into a 20-day break from the bio-bubble environment in the UK, Indian captain Virat Kohli will get an opportunity to reflect on yet another defeat in the knockout stages of an ICC tournament.

This was the third defeat in the knockouts for the Men in Blue in three successive ICC tournaments under Virat Kohli.

They lost the 2017 Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan, the 2019 World Cup semi-final to New Zealand, and now the World Test Championship final to the Kiwis yet again.

In all the matches, there was a recurring theme to how India lost.

For all the batting resources that India possesses, it has somehow failed to produce a top-class No. 4, one that has the ability to construct an innings in case of a collapse or accelerate the scoring rate following a good start.

The top three, mostly comprised of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli, have been doing the bulk of the scoring for India.

In the majority of India's games, one of the three has gone on to score big and bat until at least the 40th over. This has allowed India to post huge totals and bat the opposition out of the game.

But this has also been counter-productive for India. The brilliance of the top three has often shielded the weak middle order for the Men in Blue.

They aren't getting to face enough balls for them to make an impact. So while the top three have failed on rare occasions, the middle order hasn't been able to reconstruct the innings or counter-attack the opposition.

India has tried various players in that No. 4 slot, including MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, and KL Rahul, among others. However, none of them have been able to cement their place.

Surprisingly, a top-class side like India went into two major tournaments without a recognized No. 4 in their squad.

The reasons for their loss in the World Test Championship are a bit different. India has always been a strong side at home with a world-class spin attack. They last lost a Test series at home in 2012.

But their deficiencies, especially in their batting, come to the fore when they play overseas. They have been largely dependent on Virat Kohli, or at times Pujara, to do the bulk of the scoring. If Kohli fails, India will lose more often than not.

Here we take a look at India's performances in the three ICC tournaments under Virat Kohli.

ICC Champions Trophy 2017

Mohammad Amir wreaked havoc for Pakistan against India in 2017.
Mohammad Amir wreaked havoc for Pakistan against India in 2017.

The first ICC tournament under Virat Kohli saw India lose to arch-rivals Pakistan in the final.

India started as the favorite to win the tournament. They dominated the group stages and defeated Bangladesh in the semi-finals with ease.

In the final, Virat won the toss and opted to field, surprising experts and fans alike. In hindsight, that wasn't the correct decision. Kohli has cited India's chasing record in the past to defend his decision.

Pakistan posted a gigantic 338 on the board as Fakhar Zaman scored a brilliant century. It was always going to be difficult chasing such a score in a final.

India's top three were dismissed by Mohammad Amir in the first 10 overs, and the No. 4 position came back to haunt them. India lost comprehensively by 180 runs.

ICC World Cup 2019

MS Dhoni played his last international match against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals.
MS Dhoni played his last international match against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals.

India once again went in with a strong squad in the 2019 World Cup and finished the group stages on top, looking like the team to beat.

They faced New Zealand in the semi-finals. India bowled well and restricted the Kiwis to 239. It was a gettable target looking at the batting line-up that India possessed.

But once again, the top three fell inside the first 10 overs. The failures of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul exposed the middle order, and they couldn't deliver.

MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja built a decent partnership, but that wasn't enough as India fell short by 18 runs.

ICC World Test Championship 2021

India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day
India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day

India topped the points table of the World Test Championship (WTC), having defeated Australia and England, and went into the final against New Zealand with confidence.

However, India's batters failed to deliver once again in tricky overseas conditions as India was all out for 217 in the first innings. The bowlers did bring them back into the contest, restricting New Zealand to 249.

Due to frequent rain delays, the match went into the reserve day. Most fans and pundits expected a draw as both teams still needed to bat again.

However, India imploded on the final day as they were all out for 170. New Zealand made light work of the target as they cruised to victory.

Also Read: SLC announces new timings for India vs. Sri Lanka series

All three matches have a common pattern. The main batters don't perform, and the supporting cast crumbles under pressure.

There were some questionable team selections as well, like going in with two spinners in pace-friendly conditions in the WTC final at Southampton.

Perhaps India is overthinking it, or they are just unable to cope with the pressure of a knockout game. Whatever the reason might be, they need to rectify it soon.

Time is running out for India to win an ICC tournament under Virat Kohli, which the whole nation wants to see.

Edited by Arjun Panchadar
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