Team India unable to utilize the batting powerplay
While batting powerplay is a period for the batting side to up the scoring rate and take advantage of the field restrictions, the Indian team seems to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the same in this World Cup, says Bikash Mohapatra.
Even as the Indian team prepares for the business end of the ongoing ICC World Cup, there are certain areas, which demand immediate attention.
MS Dhoni's men may be slight favourites ahead of their quarter-final against Australia in Motera, but that is more due to the home advantage rather than recent performance.
Team India's inherent problems are manifold. From the middle order batting to the bowling to their eternal fielding woes, the co-hosts have a lot of homework to do to fulfill the expectations of a billion fans.
While the problem areas pointed out above have been there for some time, in this World Cup per se, Team India seems to have created a new problem -- one where they are unable to utilize the batting powerplay to the optimum.
Image: Yusuf Pathan bats during a practice session
Putting pressure on themselves
While batting powerplay is supposed to be a period for the batting side to up the scoring rate and take advantage of the field restrictions, in this World Cup the Indian team seems to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the same (see stats below).
India's performance in the batting power plays*
vs Bangladesh, Feb 19: Overs 35-39 (@ 224 for 2), 48 runs, no wickets
vs England, Feb 27: Overs 37-41 (@ 219 for 2), 32 runs, 1 wicket
vs Ireland, March 6: Overs 46-47 (@ 199 for five), 11 runs, no wickets
vs The Netherlands, March 9: Overs 35-36.3 (@ 186 for five), 5 runs, no wickets
vs South Africa, March 12: Overs 39-43 (@ 253 for one), 30 runs, four wickets
vs West Indies, March 20: Overs 46-49.1 (240 for six), 28 runs, four wickets
* the statistics above are only of the group phase
Instead of bolstering the team total and putting pressure on the opposition, MS Dhoni's men have succeeded in putting themselves under pressure while handing the opposition the advantage.
Against the two supposedly stronger teams in the group (Group B) -- England and South Africa -- Team India's generosity cost them three vital points, and consequently the top spot in the group.
In the game against South Africa, in particular, the team collapsed from a very comfortable position -- 267 for one -- to a disappointing 296 all out.
Even in their final group game against the West Indies, the Indian batting fell apart during the batting powerplay.
And against the lesser opposition in the group -- Ireland and Netherlands -- it gave them a few anxious moments while giving the opponents the opportunity to make inroads into their batting.
Image: Ms Dhoni and Gary Kirsten during a training session
Need to score more runs in powerplays
That India still finished second in the group had more to do with the quality of opposition (rather lack of it) as also the fact that England failed to take advantage of that vital point they earned in Bangalore.
However, should MS Dhoni's team aim to progress further in the tournament, they need to ensure that they take advantage of the batting powerplay and not let their opponents reclaim the same.
Aware of his team's inability to make the most of the batting powerplay, Dhoni made no effort to hide his disappointment.
"We have been unable to take advantage of the batting powerplay," he admitted, before proceeding to offer an elaborate explanation on what he felt should be the par score in the period.
"In the five overs in the period, anything over 40 is considered a good score," explained Dhoni, adding, "At our best we have managed to score close to 55 to 60 runs.
"There is couple of things that you have to keep in mind and not to lose too many wickets in the powerplay in one of them."
Image: Virender Sehwag during a practice session
Need to strike the right balance
India's captain admitted that it was his team's extravagance that led them to lose wickets during the period.
"When you are in a good position, you do tend to go out and try a few flashy shots," explained Dhoni, adding, "In doing so if you do end up losing two-three wickets in the first two overs, then you tend to waste the rest three.
"We need to strike a good balance during the period."
Dhoni proceeded to explain how he felt any team should approach a batting powerplay.
"The batting powerplay should be played in the manner you play the bowling powerplay," he explained. "If the opposition takes the bowling powerplay from the 11 to 15th over, how you bat is exactly the same as to how you bat in the second powerplay also.
"These are the prime things where we need to keep an eye on.
"Hopefully, in the coming games we will try and get it right and make the most of the batting powerplay."
With Dhoni having diagnosed the problem and come out with a solution as well, his team might do well to heed the same and rectify the mistakes they committed during the group stages, as the stakes are higher now.
Besides making an effort to win its first world title in 28 years, Team India also has to appease its ever-supporting billion fans.
Image: Suresh Raina stands in front of a misting fan as teammate Chawla looks on