It was too good to be true. After so much hype surrounding a possible dream T20 World Cup final between rivals India and Pakistan, a ruthless England spoiled the party in Adelaide on Thursday.
After being crushed by 10 wickets, a teary-eyed India’s hopes of ending a nine-year title drought in all formats ended in familiar disappointment. While the margin of defeat was rather shocking, losing to England was not necessarily surprising.
Having taken white-ball cricket to another level in recent years, England are a formidable opponent even though they entered the tournament slightly under the radar amid a leadership transition.
But they exploited a nervous India, who have failed once again in a cricketing World Cup since their memorable 2011 World Cup triumph on home soil.
Considering they are clearly the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the game, backed by a cricket-loving population of over a billion and many other expats around the world, India really should completely dominate the sport – something akin to the United States in basketball.
Of course the fast and furious T20 format is a bit of a leveler in cricket and if we use the basketball analogy again it’s a bit similar to the United States being back in the peloton in 3 on 3 basketball where their men’s team did not even manage to equalize to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Still, it’s rather shocking that India haven’t won a T20 World Cup since the original edition in 2007 – where, to be honest, most teams treated the format like a giggle – given that the The cash-rich Indian Premier League is the top domestic T20 franchise league. around the world, attracting the best players in the world through mega paychecks.
There is a working theory, however, that India’s all-powerful governing body’s ban on its players playing beyond the IPL has backfired.
Pakistan and England, runners-up in a rematch of the 1992 World Cup epic at Melbourne’s famous cricket ground, have a slew of players who played in Australia’s Big Bash League, this which has clearly helped them navigate the bigger and more bouncy courts in the country. .
“There is no doubt about it, the fact that England, a lot of their players have come here and played. In this tournament, it has certainly shown, conceded the Indian coach and legendary batsman Rahul Dravid.
“I think a lot of our boys are maybe missing out on opportunities to play in a lot of these leagues.”
It is, however, unlikely that Indian stars will be allowed to join the lucrative T20 circuit anytime soon like their counterparts from other countries. Not just to hog their IPL money, Dravid argued that releasing Indian players would harm the country’s national structures, inadvertently upsetting their Test cricket and weakening the sport’s longest format which already lacks regularly playing teams.
Although they struggled in major tournaments, India were generally the better Test team for some time, although they lost to New Zealand in the final of the inaugural Test World Championship. Last year.
“You would see a lot of our boys being asked to play in leagues right in the middle of our season,” Dravid said. “If you allowed all Indian players to play in these leagues, we wouldn’t have domestic cricket.
“Our national trophy, our Ranji trophy, would be over and that would mean Test cricket would be over.”
It’s admirable that India still have the venerable Test format as a priority, but their barren run at major tournaments is a cause for concern for a team that has all the resources at its fingertips.
Perhaps the overwhelming pressure – from arguably the most passionate fan base of any sport where cricket penetrates deep into the fabric of society – has become suffocating for India with this generation of players beginning to feel like they have a monkey on their back.
They will lick their wounds and move fast at the frantic pace of cricket’s busy schedule. But 12 months from now, India will have to face their demons in the intense cauldron of hosting the 50+ World Cup.
It will be interesting to see if India can shrug off its growing label of being an underachievers in a sport built for success.