Team India went into the Asia Cup 2022 as one of the favorites to lift the trophy. They are also the most successful team in the tournament’s history, with seven wins. The Men in Blue began the tournament in impressive fashion, beating Pakistan by five wickets and following it up with a 40-run win over Hong Kong. However, they were extremely shoddy in the Super 4 round. India went down to Pakistan by five wickets in the first match, in another game that was decided in the last over. In the must-win game against Sri Lanka, they again competed but came second-best.
The two defeats mean India is out of contention for a place in the final of the Asia Cup. In the wake of India’s disappointing performances in the Asia Cup, we look at five reasons why the Men in Blue failed to impress.
1. Team strategy went wrong
At the start of the tournament, Indian captain Rohit Sharma revealed that they would be trying out a few things in the T20 event, irrespective of the results. And they did try out quite a few experiments. Had they come off, critics and analysts would have termed the moves “masterstrokes.” However, questions are bound to be raised since they haven’t delivered the desired results. India’s strategy during the tournament did raise a few eyebrows.
The Men in Blue preferred Dinesh Karthik ahead of Rishabh Pant at the start of the tournament. However, after Ravindra Jadeja got injured, they picked Pant over DK, so they had a left-hander in the middle order. India could still have played Karthik instead of Deepak Hooda, but the management went for the latter. If the logic was that Hooda could bowl some off-spin, questions must be asked about the move because he did not bowl at single over and batted at No. 7.
Also, Axar Patel had been picked as a replacement for Jadeja, but he did not play in any of the two Super 4 matches. Axar could have been handy with bat and ball. India’s move to go with two leg-spinners against Pakistan also backfired as left-handed Mohammad Nawaz took on the Indian spinners and came on top. In hindsight, the Indians went completely off-track with their strategy.
2. Aggressive batting template backfires
Ahead of the Asia Cup, Rohit had admitted that India had adopted an aggressive batting approach in the wake of their T20 World Cup disaster last year in the UAE. While the template was a success in bilateral events for India, it once again came a cropper in a multi-nation event. This should be a big cause of concern for the Men in Blue just ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
India’s aggressive approach failed because they did not get 200 in any of the matches despite going all out. A good team effort lifted them to victory against Pakistan in their first match. They did score 192 in their next game, but it was against Hong Kong. Considering their batting performances in the two Super 4 games, India felt at least 20 runs short in both matches. Against Pakistan, they were 91 for 2 after 10 overs but ended up making 181 for 7. In the match versus Sri Lanka, they went from 110 for 2 in the 13th over to a disappointing 173 for 8. The lack of runs, despite the apparent intent, hurt them on both occasions.
3. Lack of contributions from middle and lower-order
One of the key factors behind India’s batting template failing to deliver was the lack of contributions from the middle and lower order. Leave out his duck against Sri Lanka; Virat Kohli was the most consistent of India’s batters. Skipper Rohit Sharma also lifted himself and played a brilliant knock in the must-win game against the Lankans. However, they found little or no support.
If we look specifically at the Super 4 losses, Kohli was the lone ranger against Pakistan with 60 off 44 balls. The next best score was 28; as a result, India did not finish with a good enough total. The case was the same against Sri Lanka. This time, Rohit smashed 72 off 41, but apart from Suryakumar Yadav (34), no other batter made any contribution of note.
Hardik Pandya began the series impressively but failed with the willow in the two Super 4 matches, scoring 0 and 17. Pant and Hooda were also disappointed. While the former scored 14 and 17, the latter managed only 16 and 3. India thus never got the final flourish in their innings.
4. Injury to key players
To be fair to India, they were severely weakened by the absence of some of their big names. Lead pacer Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out due to a back injury, while death-overs specialist Harshal Patel was also unavailable due to a side strain. India’s woes were compounded as all-rounder Jadeja was also ruled out of the Asia Cup ahead of the Super 4 stage. Jadeja’s exit seemed to throw India’s plans completely off gear as their strange team selection policy came into motion.
5. Questionable selection of bowlers
This is one aspect that hit India really hard. While Jadeja’s fitness issue cropped up in the middle of the tournament, the selectors and team management knew about the unavailability of Bumrah and Harshal while announcing the squad. Yet, they picked two extremely raw fast bowlers in Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan. Of the two, the former did an excellent job at the death under pressure in both the Super 4 games. However, Avesh was completely ragged and went for over 50, even against Hong Kong.
India’s bowling was completely exposed as their experienced pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was off-color. They picked only three pacers and Pandya as the seam-bowling all-rounder in the 15-member squad. Once Avesh was injured, Pandya had to play the third seamer role, which is clearly not competent enough to pull off. The lack of bowling options derailed India’s Asia Cup campaign.