Deeming the Men in Blue for being too timid in the semi-final against England, former Australian World Cup winner Darren Lehmann has said that it was an opportunity missed for India in the recently concluded 2022 T20 World Cup.
He further said the Indian cricketers did not suffer from a lack of overseas T20 franchise experience, and that their only weakness was a lack of attacking approach, which wouldn’t necessarily change if Indian cricketers were allowed to play in overseas T20 leagues.
“With the kind of batting strength India has, you have to wonder why they played with such a cautious approach in the first 10 overs against England. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul needed to take more risks at the start, but instead they played very safe. As a result, there was too much for the batsmen at the end to do in the death overs,” said Lehmann.
India had managed only 38-1 in the powerplay, and then 62-2 in the first ten overs. While Rahul only scored five off five balls, Sharma was woefully out of touch in his 28-ball, 27-run stay. Despite fighting half-centuries from Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya, it left too much to do for them and the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant.
Later, England had romped home by 10 wickets as Jos Buttler and Alex Hales put on a staggering 170-run stand for the first wicket.
Despite a change in captaincy and coaching staff, Team India failed to progress beyond the semis, thus stretching its ICC trophy drought since 2013.
“Look, India are a very competitive side and they obviously have the players to do the job. Why are they not doing it, or why they haven’t won anything for so long, obviously the management and selectors have to take a look? Maybe, India needs to rethink its approach in T20 cricket,” said the former Australian cricketer.
When asked if Indian cricketers should be allowed to participate in the overseas franchise leagues to gain more experience and win an ICC event like this T20 World Cup, Lehmann didn’t necessarily agree with the premise.
“IPL was held in UAE last two seasons? And the World Cup happened in the UAE last year, right? Did India win that? I don’t think it is about getting overseas experience. The Indian players have enough T20 experience and enough experience of playing across various conditions. It is a matter of getting their act right.
“That’s not to say, they shouldn’t play overseas. We would love to have them in the Big Bash League here in Australia, for example. It would be great for the development of the league, as well as the development of some of the younger Indian players. But will it make the whole Indian team daring enough? No. They lost because of their conservative approach and England was able to blow them away easily,” said Lehmann.
The former Australian coach was also disappointed with the hosts unable to make the semi-finals under Aaron Finch.
“I think it was an opportunity missed with the tournament not having an Australia-India final, or even a semi-final. Just like India, Australia needs to have a rethink about its T20 cricket and how they want to approach it. We (Australia) needed to go harder from the start, but we were unable to. The loss to New Zealand was the reason we lost out on run-rate – that loss alone hurt our run-rate. I think the Australian players didn’t cope well with the pressure of a home World Cup,” he opined.
Of course, it was also a sore sight for the Australian supporters to see arch-rivals England lift the trophy, its second T20 World Cup win after 2010. Lehmann said they were deserved winners.
“Look at players like Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. They rose to the challenge and dragged their team along. They are a very explosive side with both bat and ball, and I think England in white-ball cricket is well ahead of everyone else at the moment. They deserved to win the trophy for the kind of cricket they played.
“Just look at the semi-final. India is such a good side, but they were atleast 20 runs short on a spin-friendly Adelaide wicket. 160-170 is just not good enough for this English side. You need minimum 180 or even 190-200 against them, they are that good,” he said.
Looking back, the 2022 T20 World Cup ended up being one of the best tournaments this format has since, in particular since its inception back in 2007.
Lehmann felt the various upsets across the tournament were only good for the game overall, and that huge crowds were a marker of the same.
“You look at the crowds at each of those games. They were amazing. Of course, we had a lot of Indian and Pakistan fans, and they always turn up at a World Cup. This is where it is disappointing for the Australian team, because they would have loved to have that kind of support if they had made it to the semi-final or the final.
“There was some hard-fought cricket in this tournament. The Netherlands were sensational beating South Africa, and that game still doesn’t kind of make sense as to how the Proteas lost that game. Pakistan of course benefitted immensely from it. But you also look at teams like Ireland and Zimbabwe winning games in the Super 12; it is good for world cricket when this happens. It upsets the world cricket order a bit and gives us a competitive tournament,” he signed off.