T20 World Cup 2024 semi-final: Beware England. This 'new' India can't be bullied again

T20 World Cup 2024, India vs England semifinal: India were beaten by 10 wickets by England two years ago in Adelaide. They were beaten, bullied and knocked out. However, England are not going to find it easy this time against an Indian side that seems to have shed the fear of failure. Rohit Sharma's men are not going to be pushovers.
T20 World Cup 2024 semi-final: Beware England. This 'new' India can't be bullied again
Courtesy: PTI

England had smelled blood in Adelaide. They won the toss and opted to bowl first in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup, knowing fully well that they could bully India. And they did. Former England captain Paul Collingwood recently revealed that England were aware that their best option of beating India would be to bowl first and take advantage of the opposition’s lily-livered approach. India managed 168. Rohit Sharma hit 27 off 28 balls. Virat Kohli scored 50 off 40 balls. India managed 168 in 20 overs. England chased the target down in 16 overs without losing a wicket.

That evening in Adelaide exposed the gulf in mindset between India and eventual champions England. Despite the big names in the side, India were playing catch-up. England were playing a different brand of T20 cricket -- a slam-bang approach that was pioneered by Eoin Morgan in the ODI World Cup in 2019.

Cut to June 2024, India and England are heading into another T20 World Cup semifinal, this time in Guyana. And the England camp is fully aware that India can’t be bullied this time. England coach Matthew Mott spoke about being wary of a ‘different’ India when he addressed the press on the eve of the semi-final.

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T20 World Cup 2024 semi-final: Beware England. This 'new' India can't be bullied again

“Probably the only thing that we've discussed is that we feel that they're a very different team to that semi-final. I think the way that they've approached it in the last couple of years is certainly taking the game on extremely hard in the powerplay,” Mott said.

When pressed harder, he explained: “Well, I think when we go back to that semi-final, obviously on a good pitch in Adelaide, we put India in and that was a risk. But I thought we felt they weren't sure what a good score was. I think the approach now is they would come at us hard and try and maximise that, maybe try and put it out of our reach,” he added.

India have scored at a rate of 8-and-a-half runs in the powerplay in T20 internationals since the start of 2023 - a marginal, but significant increase (8.12 to 8.30) in the scoring rate from 2022. In the T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies, India have been refreshingly positive in the powerplay.

Take the Super 8 match against Australia for instance - Mitchell Marsh and his men tried to put pressure on India by winning the toss and opting to bowl in St Lucia. They got the big wicket of Virat Kohli for 0. The old Indian side would have played it safe after losing their best batter as early as the second over of the World Cup contest. However, this was a new Team India. This was Rohit Sharma’s ruthless India. The captain led from the front. In the very next over, he hit Australia’s best bowler - Mitchell Starc for four sixes in a 29-run over. Rohit taking down Starc was more than just a counter-attack. It was a message to the cricket world that India plays a different cricket brand in T20Is. India went on to post 205 -- the highest total against Australia in T20 World Cup history -- and it proved too much in the end for Australia.

Rohit Sharma has spearheaded the change. The Adelaide defeat seems to have stung him. The no-holds-barred approach was evident in the ODI World Cup in 2023. Rohit scored 597 runs at a strike rate of 125. No other batter with more than 400 runs had a strike rate closer to Rohit’s 125. Yet, India were not able to lift that coveted trophy. In the final, familiar problems returned to haunt India after Rohit Sharma’s whirlwind knock ended prematurely. India’s batting unit froze on November 19 in Ahmedabad. India huffed and puffed to 240. Australia chased it down with 7 overs to spare.

And that’s why, Rohit Sharma’s 41-ball 92 felt more than special. It came against Australia as India conquered their inner demons and showed they could do what it takes to terrorize opposition teams in the big stages of white-ball cricket.

“Personally, going out there and trying to put pressure on the bowlers' opposition. Because we've seen this format, when you're under pressure, that is when things can falter. And that's what you want to try and implement on the opposition. And as a batter for me to do that was very satisfying and then again it takes a lot of calculation, it takes a lot of understanding what you want to do, where you want to hit. I spoke about hitting all sides of the ground, not just one side of the ground. So, for me, that is what was very satisfying,” Rohit Sharma said reflecting on India’s Super 8 win over Australia.

In what will be the Last Dance for Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid, India have shed the fear of failure. The leadership duo can take a lot of pride in helping India head towards an approach that has been helping them to compete better in modern T20 cricket. The role clarity and the backing for the players from Rohit and Dravid have been spectacular. Take Virat Kohli’s campaign for example. The leading run-getter for India in T20 World Cups has scored just 66 runs in six matches at an average of 11. However, he has not once looked to try and change the approach that he bought into before the tournament -- go hard at the opposition bowlers in the powerplay. The message has been clear and it’s heartening that all the batters in the line-up have bought into it.

“Yes, it's important to play without fear. Of course. And we have created this environment in the team for the past few years. Now, we have been constantly talking about this thing for a long time. That we don't have to think much and play without thinking. This format is like that now. Individual scores and individual brilliance don't matter that much. If someone does it, it's good, but you shouldn't focus on it that I have to score 70 runs, 90, or 100 runs,” Rohit Sharma said, shedding light on India’s ‘fearless approach’.

Captain Rohit Sharma did not shy away from conceding that India were undone by a mix of ‘fear of failure’ and ‘luck’ in the past in the knockout matches of major tournaments. This time, in the Caribbean, India are trying to control the controllable. A fearless and more ruthless India are certainly not going to be pushovers. Beware England!

Source: India Today

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