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    India Outshines Struggling Asian Rivals in T20 World Cup
India Outshines Struggling Asian Rivals in T20 World Cup
India Team. Source: livemint.com

India Outshines Struggling Asian Rivals in T20 World Cup

India's strategic prowess in T20 cricket has increasingly set them apart from their Asian counterparts—Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—at ICC events. The last few days have highlighted this gap, with Pakistan and Bangladesh defending two of the lowest totals in T20 World Cup history. On the flip side, these three teams have often struggled to maintain consistency. Recently, Sri Lanka was bowled out for a mere 77 against South Africa and failed to defend 124 on a challenging Dallas pitch, where Bangladesh narrowly avoided a similar fate despite losing eight wickets. By Monday, Pakistan and Sri Lanka remained winless, while Bangladesh, although having two points, is not yet assured of advancing. India, conversely, is on a smooth path to qualification with an undefeated record.

Afghanistan has been performing admirably, punching above their weight. Yet, inconsistency among Asian teams, except India, has been a recurring theme in ICC events. Since 2011, India has reached the semi-finals in six of the last eight ODI or T20 World Cups, missing out only in 2012 and 2021. Pakistan has reached the semi-finals three times (2012, 2021, 2022), Sri Lanka twice (2012, 2014), and Bangladesh has not advanced at all. Currently, the prospects for Pakistan and Sri Lanka to make it to the Super 8 look dim. Bangladesh's recent stumble in their chase of 113 against South Africa exacerbates their situation, often failing to execute the basics effectively.

On the improving New York pitch, the task was straightforward—chase down 113 with minimal risk. At 83/4 after 15 overs, Bangladesh seemed to be on track. Towhid Hridoy, while seeking boundaries, also showed maturity by accumulating runs through singles until he was narrowly trapped leg before by Kagiso Rabada.

By this point, Bangladesh may have already been aggrieved by an earlier decision when four leg-byes were overturned following a successful DRS review by Mahmudullah. Even after Hridoy's dismissal, the chase should have been manageable. However, newcomer Jaker Ali complicated matters with three dot balls, turning the match into a test of nerves—an area where Bangladesh often falters. Hridoy later expressed regret, stating he should have seen the match through, noting that newcomers struggle to adapt quickly to the conditions.

Adapting batting strategies to suit the two-paced nature of the drop-in pitches in the USA has been a challenge for many teams, but South Africa adjusted effectively.

Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa, who top-scored with 46, explained that David Miller's approach in the previous game against the Netherlands served as a guide on how to bat on these wickets. He likened their strategy to playing the middle overs in an ODI, focusing on batting steadily at a run-a-ball pace. This method differs from traditional T20 cricket, where aggressive hitting is more common. South Africa's 79-run partnership between Klaasen and Miller against Bangladesh helped them reach 113. Similarly, India managed 119 against Pakistan largely due to Rishabh Pant's steady presence at the crease from 12/1 to 96/5.

In contrast, Pakistan’s largest partnership on Sunday was only 31, and Bangladesh’s was 44. Pakistan appeared to be in a decent position at 80/3 after 14 overs, with Mohammad Rizwan anchoring the chase with a 43-ball 31. However, Rizwan’s ill-advised attempt to play a delicate shot against Jasprit Bumrah at the start of the next over effectively sealed their fate. Gary Kirsten, Pakistan's coach, pointed out that poor decision-making at crucial moments cost them the game. He acknowledged that they were managing the chase well but faltered towards the end due to subpar decisions.

Shahid Afridi echoed similar sentiments, noting the need for strategic play rather than aggression in such chases. He noted in his ICC column that smart cricket was essential for Pakistan to secure the win, a quality they lacked in that game. Despite their experience in high-intensity franchise leagues, players from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka often struggle to adapt and evolve with the game’s rapid changes, unlike India. This is exemplified by contrasting styles—Babar Azam focuses on classic cover drives while Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli adopt more modern, aggressive techniques like reverse sweeps and charging bowlers in the Powerplay.

Kirsten also highlighted the importance of continuous improvement in the evolving landscape of cricket. He warned that teams not keeping up with these changes would eventually be left behind. Until Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka embrace this evolution, the gap between them and India is likely to grow wider.

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