India's poor timing

On India and Afghanistan

This is what Rohit Sharma said after this game. He didn't make runs here because they were low pressure, he didn't make runs here because the bowlers were terrible, and he didn't even make runs here because the matchups favoured him more (although that helps the most). He made runs because every few innings he makes runs.

Rohit can't crack the whip on himself to ensure it is every game. All he can do is prepare for each match, then go out and hope his partner doesn't run him out, try to defend the good balls and hope when he's trying to smash a six, it doesn't land in someone's hand on his side of the padded triangle.

That is what T20 batting is, fail, fail, happy times.  That is also what T20 cricket can be.

For instance, how does everyone feel about Afghanistan and India as teams now? I would say both are no better or worse than they were a few hours ago. But the last result will change people's minds. India has only played three matches; Afghanistan has now beat the two teams they are better than and struggled against the others.

This tournament is about the tyranny of small sample sizes. Whether it be West Indies, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or India, all of these teams have been praised or chucked out after such a tiny amount of results. As I have said many times, this tournament is so random. A team like England or Pakistan could just be so much better than everyone else that it doesn't matter. But chances are a winner will come from some luck through the toss, form or some dropped chances.

T20 is a sport designed to be really level. Each team has the same amount of possessions, like basketball, baseball and Netball. And then we threw out 60% of the game to make it even more random. The best team will not always win, weird stuff does happen, and when you are doing analysis, you have to be honest about all the factors you can reasonably keep in your head at the same time.

And I am not talking to the people out there sharing the Indian choke memes about how they lose all the finals every single time. But am really talking to everyone who follows internationals, but maybe not T20. The best teams win 66% of the time over a prolonged period. As Chennai proved to us before the IPL finals, even the best team in the league can lose three in a row. But this doesn't allow for that. It's what makes it a fun and dangerous tournament.

Let's look at two players in this game. Rohit Sharma couldn't play left-arm pace and should have been thrown away forever according to many. I will do a deeper dive on Rohit and left-arm, but every team he goes up against knows his weakness, and he's not suddenly become terrible.

Earlier this year I was talking about KL Rahul, he had a form blip, so people wanted him binned. If KL Rahul isn't one of the best T20 batters in the last few years, what are we even doing here? As for Rohit, just before this World Cup he made four 50s in eight innings for India. And despite KL Rahul's weird form drop, in 12 innings before that he scored under 25 only once. These are exceptional batting talents, as the Afghanistan bowlers will attest.

If a whole team has quality left-arm seam, you would expect Rohit's record to drop, but not from 35 to zero. He just got out early the other day, which is when most batters are dismissed. In this game there were less left-arm seamers, but chances are most games he won't face much left-arm seam outside of Namibia. He has made runs against teams with left-arm seam before.

And what about Afghanistan. If anything their last two games have had their best bowling attack, although Mujeeb should probably have bowled. But their spinners have carried them for a long time, and now they have added Hamid Hassan again.

Hamid Hasan bowled his first two overs and allowed six runs. Considering India would end with over 200, it was quite the start. That on its own is remarkable. But for Hamid, these were his fifth and sixth professional overs this year in any format of cricket.

Last year he almost finished 22 overs; the year before he was at 44, and in 2018 he didn't bowl a delivery. To bowl this little and walk into a World Cup and deliver your first two overs against this batting so well is a freakish effort.  This makes them a stronger team, but they went up against a better opposition. And Hamid was lessened by the fact when he came back on India were in full party mode.

And as I said in a previous video, India were one good Rashid Khan spell from heading back home. He has been the best T20 bowler in the world for so long now. And so far in this tournament, no one has been able to hit him. Hell, Scotland could barely see him, Namibia held him off for survival, and Pakistan lost two wickets despite being careful.

And India did three important things with him. They dominated the other bowlers up front so that Afghanistan use him earlier than they would have wanted. Afghanistan always holds him back to bowl in the second ten overs, like how old monster movies never used to show you the monster. But they couldn't do that because India got off to such a great start.

And then Rohit Sharma attacked him, scoring more than half the runs from only eight balls. Pant struggled in a few balls, Rahul knocked him around safely.  But because Rohit hit those two sixes, it meant that India changed Afghanisatn's game plan, and also it allowed for the eventual big total. It's hard to score 200 when Rashid takes 2/20. And him taking none and going for runs was party time.

With India so far in front they actually pushed ahead further by not sending their batters in on their assigned positions. India instead went with two very smart promotions.  It would have been easy to send in Virat Kohli, or Hardik Pandya when the first wicket fell. But they went with Rishabh Pant because he is a left-hander and Rashid Khan still had an over left. Pant didn't get Rashid away, but he also wasn't dismissed by him. That allowed Hardik to come in when it was the kind of bowling he wanted to attack. These two played their roles beautifully at the end, Ravi Jadeja, who is also capable, never had to get off his chair. Two promotions, two wins. And a big total.

The chase was way beyond what I thought was possible for Afghanistan unless India just bowled and fielded terribly. A few years ago I wrote about how Afghanistan had a batting order made of number eights. Players who could hit, but ultimately we're a bit flawed, and their next evolution would be batters not hitters. There are players with good signs, but when you look at their first four games, you see it's still a really even spread of runs, But no bankable batters.  Even one player in this game to bat through to the 13th or 14th over would have helped. India found it too easy to regularly take wickets because Afghanistan still doesn't have batters like Rohit or KL Rahul. Mohammad Nabi is their top scorer, and he bats six and seven.

And this is important; India can't just pick when they are going to be good. This format fluctuates; you can't get yourself back into games. Bad tosses and dew play a part, and losing games is just part of something that happens. I think India is overly conservative with the bat at times. Their seam bowling is not locked in. I am positive they are tired from their bubble life, and - like a few good teams - they seem to have a plague of bad form affecting them at the wrong time.

None of that is more true now than it was 24 hours ago. Afghanistan is still a good team.  They still are light on batters, clearly something going on with them behind the scenes and today their best bowler got hit, meaning the opposition just went beyond them with the total.

As for India, they are a flawed team with lots of match-winners. Their beating Afghanistan hasn't changed anything other than the points table.  The only difference, as Rohit said, is that they wish they had this performance in the first two games.