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  5. In numbers: Frailties in powerplay reason behind India's inability to defend totals

In numbers: Frailties in powerplay reason behind India's inability to defend totals

The secret has long been out. Win toss, force India to bat first, and the game is yours. But what changed for India in their win against West Indies in 3rd T20I?

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: December 13, 2019 16:32 IST
india vs west indies virat kohli india defending totals
Image Source : AP

India's Lokesh Rahul, left, runs between the wickets with Virat Kohli during the third Twenty20 international cricket match between India and West Indies in Mumbai

Three years back India found themselves under similar conditions at the same venue against the same opposition, albeit a lot was at stake then. It was the World T20 semis and India were asked to bat first. The hosts performed impressively at Wankhede posting 192 runs at the loss of just two wickets. The West Indies chased down the total with two balls to spare and seven wickets at hand. Three years hence, India were still looking for answers if they would defend a total in T20Is. And the answer was an emphatic 67-run win. India's top-three scored big, rampaging a total of 35 boundaries to amass 240/3 -- their third-highest T20I total. In reply, Windies crumbled under pressure and India wrapped up the series 2-1. But the result stands contrary to all the talks and discussions ahead of the decider in Mumbai.

After being put to bat first in the second T20I, India failed to defend a total of 170, thereby, losing yet another game whilst batting first. The secret has long been out. Win toss, force India to bat first, and the game is yours. The formulae had even provided success to Bangladesh in their opener last month and South Africa in Bengaluru. India are better chasers, courtesy Virat Kohli and his ability to dictate such proceedings better with astute prowess. India have won 14 off their last 17 games chasing, since start of 2018, which included their recent chase to 208 (their highest successful run chase ever) against West Indies in the first T20I last week. However, when put to bat first, India have lost as many as they won since 2018 (9-8 stands the win-loss record).

India are certainly not the worst at defending totals, but in terms of win-loss ratio, they stand sixth among 2020 World T20 participants who have played 10 or more games since 2018.

Now, this statistics stands in complete contrary to the Indian side that comprises of one of the most indomitable opening pair in limited-overs cricket, Kohli in the middle, and a formidable new-ball bowling pair. Besides, whenever media talks about India and their T20I squad, the word 'happy headache' is always used given the large pool of players they already have contesting against each other for a spot in the final 15 for World T20. Yet, India have struggled to put their team together in the best possible manner when it comes to defending a total. And one of the main reasons behind it has been their batting and bowling frailties in powerplay.

India Tv - India's batting in matches lost while batting first 

Image Source : INDIA TV

India's batting in matches lost while batting first 

Looking at India's batting figures in matches won and lost while batting first, the team starts at a much slower rate in games they have lost compared to those where they have ended victoriously. India's powerplay run rate in matches lost has been 7.2 compared to a run rate of 9.5 in matches won. India have also lost half (6) as many wickets in matches won while batting first than in games where they faced defeat. In fact, in the first scenario, India have gone wicketless in the powerplay only once compared to five instances in the second scenario where India did not lose a wicket in the first six overs.

India Tv - India's batting in matches won while batting first 

Image Source : INDIA TV

India's batting in matches won while batting first 

Moreover, India's strike rate and boundaries per game has been substantially more in winning cause than in the matches they have lost. And the respective numbers remain high in the middle and the death overs for matches won.

India's powerplay numbers are high in matches they have chased compared to matches they have lost while batting first. India score at an average run rate of 8.45 and strike rate of 140.87 in matches where they are chasing a total. However, the dot ball percentage is higher while chasing compared to when the team is batting first.

Powerplay numbers in matches won while batting second 
Run rate Dot balls Strike rate DPB BR
8.45 208 140.87 41.2 7.5

However, the team's dismissal per match rate (1.4) while chasing is almost similar to that when India have lost games while batting first (1.5) and have gone wicketless only twice in the first scenario. And captain Kohli has been the driving force behind India's success in chasing. Kohli has been involved in 50 per cent of matches in which India have won while chasing, since start of 2018, scoring 368 runs at an average of 122.66 with five half-centuries.

What about bowling in powerplays?

  Economy Average
Matches lost while batting first  7.9 34.45
Matches won while batting first  6.13 15.76
Matches won while batting second  7.85 26.3

India have an excellent economy rate and average in powerplays in matches they have won while defending a total than in matches they have lost. In matches lost while defending, the new-ball bowlers have averaged 34.45 while taking 11 wickets in eight games at an economy rate of 7.9 while also going wicketless twice. Compared to games where they have won defending a total, India have taken 21 wickets while averaging just 15.76 and having an economy rate of 6.13. India never went wicketless in the powerplays they have won.

India missing Bhuvi-Bumrah pair in T20Is?

The combination of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah was once considered the best with the new and the old ball in limited-overs cricket. However, with both being sidelined through the major part of 2019, India's powerplay bowling numbers dipped. The pair played seven matches since 2018 with India winning five and losing one. They registered a combined average of 34.5 and an economy rate of 5.52, however, managing only 4 wickets. India were without this combination in entire 2019 where new-ball bowlers averaged better (22.35) while striking 16 times in powerplays, but registering a higher economy rate of 7.02.

A perfect start is all India need no matter the scenario. They still have time with eight T20I matches to go before the World T20. If India can find the right combination for powerplays, the game can surely be theirs to win. All Kohli can now do is force his team to bat first when he wins the toss and prepare his team for such scenarios.

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