There was no glorious, emotional ending for India this time around. Unlike five years ago, when landing the 50-over World Cup on home soil, India’s quest to claim World Twenty20 in front of their fanatic and expectant support fell flat. Sunday’s World Twenty20 final at Kolkata’s famed Eden Gardens ground will take place without the hosts of the party after the West Indies ended India’s dream and set up a meeting with England following a thrilling semifinal win on Thursday.
Simply missing out on the final would be painful enough, but the manner of their exit left plenty of cause for regret. On three occasions, India believed they had claimed the wicket of Lendl Simmons, only to have the catches voided by two of the deliveries being called no-balls and then a catch in the deep only occurring after Ravindra Jadeja had stepped on the boundary marking. Lendl went on to make 82 from 51 balls as the West Indies claimed victory with two balls to spare.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni expressed his frustration at the two no-balls in particular following the match. But, unsurprisingly, he also faced a question about his future. It is far from the first time the 34-year-old has had to answer such an inquiry since he stepped down from Test cricket at the end of 2015. This time, though, he had a playful, yet emphatic, response.
“Do you want me to retire,” he initially shot back, before going to ask whether the sheepish journalist thought he was unfit, his running between the wickets was still fast and if he could keep going until the 2019 50-over World Cup. The journalist answered in the affirmative on each occasion, and, while he was clearly under pressure to do so, it was also easy to see Dhoni’s point.
Dhoni was under intense scrutiny last year when India’s semifinal exit at the 50-over World Cup was followed by a first ever series loss to Bangladesh as well as one-day and T20 series losses on home soil to South Africa. But he has shown of late that he still adds plenty to the team.
Dhoni guided India to 10 wins from 11 matches heading into the World T20, including a whitewash of Australia Down Under. And, while India didn’t quite reach those heights in the competition itself, it would be hard to find fault with Dhoni, either as a batsman or a captain. He came in and provided useful knocks in each of India’s five matches, especially against Australia and the West Indies, when his partnership with star man Virat Kohli, and particularly their rapid running between the wickets provided a much-needed boost to the innings. It would be difficult to say that there is anyone in India who can perform his role better right now.
As a captain, too, he came up trumps. Staring down the barrel of defeat against Bangladesh and an exit from the tournament, Dhoni showed remarkable poise under incredible pressure to direct his troops and lead the inexperienced Hardik Pandya through the final over and to a remarkable victory.
Certainly, there is every indication, provided that India takes their strongest lineup, that Dhoni will be at the helm for three one-day internationals in Zimbabwe in June, a tour that will also encompass a single Test match. Before that, India’s players will experience a lot more Twenty20 action, with the 2016 Indian Premier League season starting in just over a week’s time.
For the second half of the year, though, India will have to get back into five-day mode, and that means Kohli returning to the captain’s role. Given the way the 27-year-old performed at the World T20, reinforcing his status as the team’s talisman, there is reason for excitement as he aims to match the brilliant consistency he has found in limited-overs cricket in the Test arena.
Kohli, who has lost just one of nine matches since taking over the reins from Dhoni, will be at the helm for four Test matches in the West Indies this summer. Given the Caribbean team’s struggle sin the longer form of the game, India will certainly be hoping to avenge their World T20 semifinal loss.
Before the year is out, India will also play host to Bangladesh, New Zealand and, in the showpiece home series of the year, England.
India provisional schedule 2016
June: Tour Of Zimbabwe—1 Test 3 ODIs
July - August: Tour of West Indies—4 Tests
August: Host Bangladesh—1 Test
October: Host New Zealand—3 Tests, 5 ODIs
November - December: Host England—5 Tests