World T20: India ran hard and ran well, but West Indies simply took the aerial route to Eden Gardens - Firstpost
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World T20: India ran hard and ran well, but West Indies simply took the aerial route to Eden Gardens


Two days ago, West Indies batsman Lendl Simmons was sitting at home, watching his team's journey to the World T20 semi-final.

When one of his teammates got injured, Simmons took a flight to Mumbai, padded up, swung his bat, got caught twice, walked back towards the pavilion, was called back because replays showed the bowlers had over-stepped, scored 82 runs and helped West Indies chase down 193 to enter the finals.

You can call it luck, the factor that saved India against Bangladesh a few days ago. You can call it destiny. When a rival batsman is on a song, you can also sing Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, shrug your shoulders and stop finding flaws with the Indian performance.

If you must, blame Andre Fletcher, who tore his hamstring and allowed Simmons to play against India. Or the man who invented TV replays.

On any other ground, on some other day, in an era without third umpires, 192 would have been a safe total for India in a T20 game. But, not with fortune favouring Simmons on Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium.

Lendl Simmons plays a shot during the ICC WT20 Semi Final match against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI

Lendl Simmons plays a shot during the ICC WT20 Semi Final match against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI

Wankhede has a flat pitch, the boundaries are short and the ball slips out of the bowler's grip because of the due that begins to fall after the first innings.

No target is safe on this ground. The average total batting first is 186, a statistical warning that batsmen need to throw caution to the cool winds that rise from the nearby sea late in the evening and smash almost every ball.

On this paata (flat) track, batsmen need the courage to plant their feet down the track, trust the bounce and swing their bat.

Simmons, James Charles and Andre Russell did just that for the West Indies. The three musketeers pounded the Indian bowling, hitting sixes and fours almost every over, bringing down the run-rate and pressure at will, wresting back control every time the game appeared headed for a tense climax.

During the middle overs, when India batted, Ajinkya Rahane could hit just two fours, Kohli managed a six and 11 fours and Dhoni struck just an uncharacteristic solitary boundary.

In contrast, Simmons, Russell and Chares hit 11 sixes and 17 fours. Their big hitting proved the difference.

When India began their innings, Rohit Sharma hoicked the first ball of the third over bowled by Carlos Braithwaite over the long-on boundary. His intent and shot indicated India needed big hits to set a big target.

Rohit hit two more, one off a no ball and the next on the resultant free-hit. But, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued, India lost the opportunity to score another 10-15 when Rohit got out trying to turn a Badree Samuels ball on the leg side, getting struck on the pads as his wrists missed the flight and the feet got stuck on the crease.

In the current Indian team, Rohit is the only top-order batsman who loves the lofted shot. Once he settles down, he can work up a hurricane with a flurry of sixes, taking the game away from the opposition.

But, when he left, the sixes almost vanished.

Rahane, for reasons completely understandable, kept hitting balls straight to fielders. He was, obviously, playing to cement his place in the Indian side, concerned that another low score could be the end of his career.

While he was batting at a strike rate of 120, when 160 was needed, someone from the management should have sent a glove to Rahane. At 86 for 1 in the 10th over, India needed to take the aerial route, not just run hard.

Since nobody intervened, Jinx Rahane kept hitting the ball along the ground, looking for gaps, running singles, attempting shots that got stopped at the boundary, playing the sheet-anchor even after the 10th over.

Kohli ran his heart out, found gaps, bisected fielders and hit a flurry of fours in the end. Kohli's 89 not out off 47 balls was a masterclass in converting ones into twos and hitting shots that rarely leave the ground and disappear into the fence.

Unfortunately, even on the small, batsmen-friendly, swing-and-hit Wankhede, even superman Kohli could not hit sixes. As a result, once Sharma got out, India could manage just one six over the next 14 overs.

In a T20 game, at the Wankhede stadium, it was destined to be the difference.

Yet, India could have won it.

When Jaspreet Bumrah knocked out Chris Gayle's off stump in the second over and Marlon Samuels also left soon, India appeared headed for a big win.

Later, when Simmons was caught twice, once off R Ashwin and then again off Hardik Pandya, India seemed destined towards the Eden Gardens for the final. When Simmons lobbed the ball towards short third man off in the seventh over, bowled by Ashwin, an ecstatic Virender Sehwag announced in the commentary box that the catch was so simple that even Thakur from Sholay could have taken it. But, the spinner — and later Pandya — had overstepped.

And finally, in the 18th over, when Bumrah bowled three priceless dot balls, taking for a moment the required rate close to 15. There was still some faint hope.

But, perhaps, Simmons was not meant to cross several continents to play just one innings and go back.

He was destined to first bat for his team and then dance with his captain after the win, in front of a stunned Wankhede crowd.

Perhaps to the tune of Que Sera, Sera.

First Published On : Apr 1, 2016 14:45 IST

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