Knocked Out: Are India the new ‘chokers’ of world cricket in ICC tournaments?

For a long time, South Africa were criticised for faltering at the knockout stage of World Cups but now it seems that ‘Team India’ have replaced the Proteas to emerge as the ‘new chokers’ in global cricket, especially when it comes to ICC tournaments.

Except this year, where things have gone downhill for Indian cricket, the ‘Men in Blue’ have played exceptional cricket in bilateral series in the last one decade or so. But, it’s the ICC events and that too at the knockout stages, where the team full of ‘superstars’ crumbles under pressure and fails to deliver.

The last time when India won an ICC trophy, it was in 2013 when the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side defeated England to win the Champions Trophy. Since then, captains, coaches, players have changed but Indian cricket fans haven’t got the opportunity to see India lift that coveted trophy again.

Starting from the 2014 T20 World Cup, India lost to Sri Lanka in the final; then to Australia in the 2015 50-over World Cup, in 2016 to West Indies in the T20 World Cup semifinals; to Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy finals and lost to New Zealand in the 2019 50-over World Cup semifinals.

It followed with the loss against New Zealand in the 2021 ICC World Test Championship Finals and the 2022 T20 World Cup semifinal defeat against England.

The ICC T20 World Cup in 2021, under Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri was the worst, when the team failed to cross even the group stage. After the disastrous campaign, even the legendary Kapil Dev had admitted that the Indian side can be branded as chokers after their repeated failures in the ICC tournaments.

“Yes, we can call them chokers. That’s okay. They come close and then choke,” Kapil Dev said on a TV show after the match against Pakistan when India suffered a humiliating 10-wicket loss.

After the failure in 2021, Indian cricket fans had high hopes from new skipper Rohit Sharma, given his IPL credentials, but he also seemed under tremendous pressure throughout the tournament and looked clueless when England opener Jos Buttler and Alex Hales hammered the Indian bowlers all around the park in the semifinal.

WHAT AILS INDIA AT KNOCKOUTS OF ICC EVENTS?

Bad team selection, timid approach, fear of failure, pressure to perform or lack of big match temperament/self-belief could be possible reasons for India’s failure.

Most of the cricket experts feel India don’t play the fearless brand of cricket despite having so much talent, which holds them back in ICC events. The reasons behind India’s conservative form of cricket could be the pressure on players to maintain their place in the team.

With the ever-growing talent pool due to the IPL and domestic cricket over the last decade, players need to be on their A-game to solidify their place in the team or else they would be out of the team. So, they prefer playing a risk-free brand of cricket, which has become outdated now.

High expectations by fans, who are in crores, also puts added pressure on players to perform and they falter. With back-to-back failures, the players also might not be that confident, when they enter the field during that knockout match.

Too much cricket is also one of the factors as players sometimes don’t get time to introspect, work on their shortcomings, and become fitter and healthier. Also, selecting the wrong players for a particular player doesn’t help.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

After their disappointing group-stage exit in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, England found the root cause of their downfall in white-ball cricket. They adopted an aggressive approach to the game and are now the champions of both 50-over and T20 World Cups.

Likewise, the BCCI and the stakeholders of Indian cricket need to assess the situation and take some bold calls if required. After every ICC event, there are talks of some drastic decisions to improve the results, but it doesn’t happen and things become normal after two-three months.

India are the hosts of the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup and the way they are performing now, it’s giving very little hope to fans for the mega event. So, it’s time to wake up and act, before it is too late.

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