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Did India play badly in Cricket World Cup 2019? I Feel Yes!

Yes, it was a disappointing and a much earlier exit than expected for Indian cricket team in the Cricket World Cup 2019. It was tough for millions of cricket fans to accept that even after reaching the top of the table, how did we lose!

Each one of us will have our own angst on – 1) Top Order failure in Semi-final, 2) Dhoni’s slow scoring rate or 3) The Weather! These are emotional outbursts and valid ones. But, if we set our emotions aside and try to evaluate the Indian team’s performance in an objective manner, I am sure we would be proud of our team for multiple reasons.

So, let’s see how did Team India perform in 2019 versus in 2011, when we won the World Cup. The reason for me to compare this year’s performance with that of 2011, is two-fold – 1) Comparison would be fair between the new age players, 2) Its better to benchmark against a win, rather than a loss (that happened in 2015).

Performance Summary – 2019 vs 2011

India played 9 matches both in 2011 and 2019. However, the nature of the matches were different in both years. In 2011, India played 6 group matches, followed by quarter-final, semi-final and final. While in 2019, India played 8 league matches (as the format was changed to round-robin) and one semi-final. Please note, I am ignoring the Ind vs NZ match in 2019, as it was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The below table clearly highlights that India fared well in 2019 on almost all parameters than in 2011. We scored more runs, took almost same number of wickets during the entire tournament, scored more boundaries (thanks to the shorter boundaries in England!), and restricted opponents to lesser totals than in 2011.

Then where did we go wrong? If we played so consistently, we should have aced the semi-final too!

Did our bowlers let us down in the Cricket World Cup 2019?

Not really! At an aggregate level, we took 1 wicket more than what we took in 2011 and statistically, we did match the numbers. However, if we consider the bowling conditions, we did much better than what we did in 2011. Wonder why?

In 2011, we were bowling in our backyard. The pitches were very well known to our bowlers and captain. So, the bowling conditions were in our favor. While in the present Cricket World Cup 2019, the bowling conditions were very different, yet our bowling performance was at par with that of 2011. The pacers took increased responsibility and managed to contribute the most from the bowling department.

Did our pacers bowl effectively?

If we closely analyze the below stats we might have to rethink if Bumrah was indeed effective! Though Bumrah finished being the top wicket-taker for India with 18 wickets, his success with top order batsmen was limited. He could manage only 6 wickets from top order batsmen – Guptill (1), Amla (6), De Kock (10), Khawaja (42), Karunaratne (10), Kushal Perera (18). This means just 33% (6 off 18 wickets) were helpful creating dent in the beginning of opponent’s innings.

Now, lets see Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. He took 10 wickets in the season, but just one of them was a top rated batsmen – Smith (69). Rest 9 of them were either lower middle order batsmen or bowlers, which means he manged to get wickets towards late slogging.

Then who was the most effective pacer? In my opinion it was Shami. In the four matches he played, he took 14 wickets of which 9 were of top order batsmen – Gayle (6), Hope (5), Hetmyer (18), Bairstow (111), Root (44), Morgan (1), Tamim Iqbal (22), H. Zazal (10), M. Nabi (52). This essentially means he was effective in 64% of cases (9 of 14 wickets he took). Alas! He didn’t get a berth in the playing XI on the semi-final day.

I am not taking away the credit from Bumrah or Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. They must have provided tight starts, but not effective upto me. The numbers don’t favor their wicket-taking ability.

We missed quality part-time bowlers in Cricket World Cup 2019

One key difference to be noted is the contribution of part-time bowlers to the wickets tally. Thanks to Yuvraj Singh’s contribution with 15 wickets, performance of part-time bowlers was healthy and it matched that of full-time spinners. Harbhajan Singh (9), Piyush Chawla (4), Ravichandran Ashwin (4) managed the 17 wicket haul. But, in 2019 the major contributor was Hardik Pandya with 10 wickets, while the rest 2 wickets were by Vijay Shankar. Honestly, it would have been too much to expect more from Hardik Pandya, this being his first Cricket World Cup appearance.

But does it really matter? It does! Part-time bowlers are the key to break partnerships in the middle overs (15-40 overs). Frontline bowlers are key to restricting the opponent team from getting a quick start and finishing the innings on a high. If part-time bowlers didn’t take enough wickets in the middle overs, it means partnerships were built strong and the opponent team was ready for onslaught in the last ten overs.

Was our fielding remarkable?

At least numerically, it does look weak (3 in 2019 vs 7 in 2011)! The fielding sharpness that we had during Yuvraj and Raina days was definitely a miss this time. In order to compensate, Jadeja was called upon as substitute in couple of matches. He did take a blinder from Jason Roy, but those were one off instances. The sheer low number of run-outs (just 3 in 9 matches), exposes our inability to hit at stumps. And it also highlights Dhoni’s missed clean collects from the deep, which was also evident in many matches.

How did our batsmen perform in Cricket World Cup 2019 vs 2011?

Here is the main reason why we lost the semi-final. The top order batsmen scored most of the runs (63%), while the middle order could manage only 34% of the total runs scored by the team. While in case of 2011, the responsibility of scoring runs was equally led by both the top order and the middle order batsmen.

In Cricket World Cup 2019, before the semi-final match, the middle order batsmen had score just 28% of total team’s runs (647 / 2,295). The inexperienced cum vulnerable middle order was exposed as soon as the top order 3 batsmen got out for just 3 runs in the semi-final match against New Zealand. The middle order was left to score 99% of total runs, which was too much for the group!

In 2011, we had a strong middle order comprising Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan, which contributed strong 40% of total runs.

Was it an all-round batting performance by India in Cricket World Cup 2019?

I doubt! Rohit Sharma scored 5 of the total 7 centuries scored by Indian batsmen in Cricket World Cup 2019. Not to forget that he was dropped almost four times in various matches, and he went on to score centuries. So, pardon my critique, but if those chances were held on, he wouldn’t have scored five centuries on a seaming pitch for sure! This meant we as a team dependent a lot on him, which isn’t a great sign.

While in 2011, Sehwag and Sachin scored 2 each and Yuvraj scored 1 century. So, essentially one of the two openers did score a century to provide a solid start to the Indian innings, in almost every match.

On the other hand, we had almost equivalent number of 30s and 40s scores in 2019 and 2011. And most importantly there were good solid contributions in terms of 50s to 90s scores – to be precise 12 instances each in 2019 and in 2011. This shows, our batsmen (but just the top 3!) faced no major challenges in English conditions.

Where did we miss the bus?

Basis all above numbers its very clear that the scenarios between 2011 final match and 2019 semi-final match.

In 2011, the top 3 (Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir) could manage only 42% of required target (277 runs). While, the middle order (Yuvraj, Dhoni, Kohli) contributed 53% of the required target and ensured we won the World Cup.

In 2019, as soon as the top 3 (Rohit, Rahul, Kohli) crumbled just for three runs, the pressure was straightaway on the middle order, which was totally either unexposed or inexperienced throughout the tournament.

In totality, we did have an equivalent of Yuvraj Singh (362 runs, 15 wickets) in the form of Hardik Pandya (226 runs, 10 wickets). But, the latter didn’t get much support from the other fellow batsmen.

Had we solved for our middle order issues much before stepping on English soil, we all would have enjoyed the Cricket World Cup 2019 final on 14th July!

So yes, we didn’t play that bad, but didn’t play that good either!

Hoping for a much improved performance in Cricket World Cup 2023!

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