The setting sun above the Wankhede Stadium last evening against the backdrop of Indian batsmen Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina toiling away in the nets was akin to the fading form of India's top order in the ongoing ICC World T20.
India opener Rohit Sharma bats in the nets at Wankhede Stadium yesterday (Pic/Suresh Karkera) and Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina
The Indian team have always relied heavily on its batting and going into this tournament too, the willow-wielders were considered to be the strength of a team that was consistently inconsistent in the bowling department.
However, except for the heavy-performing Virat Kohli, the rest of the top order batting has failed throughout this competition. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina have together contributed a paltry 129 runs in the tournament so far.
In fact, the opening pair of Sharma and Dhawan can hardly be referred to a partnership in the four matches. Against New Zealand, they put on just six runs before Dhawan was trapped leg before by Nathan McCullum for one. Suresh Raina, who came in at Rohit's departure for just five runs, also added just one.
Against Pakistan, Rohit and Dhawan put on only 14 before the Mumbaikar was dismissed by Mohammad Amir for 10. Raina was later dismissed for a duck after Dhawan (six) did not even manage to get into double figures. The openers then just about got going against Bangladesh next, putting on 42 in the first six overs, before Sharma again seemed to be in a hurry to depart, falling to Mustafizur Rahman for 18.
Raina added a decent 30 this time while Dhawan made 23. Against the Australians in the virtual quarter-final, Dhawan decided to leave before his partner this time, after scoring just 13. Rohit was next to go for 12, followed by Raina's 10. Meanwhile, Yuvraj Singh also had some unimpressive numbers (four, 24, three & 21) but his twisted ankle in the Mohali game against Australia and subsequent replacement in the squad by Manish Pandey for the remainder of the tournament makes his contribution irrelevant in this context.
'Raise your game'
Though the numbers aren't anything to be proud of for a team that prides itself in its batting, the good thing is that Team India realise this and is not shy in admitting that the other batsmen must pull up their socks in the last two fixtures, beginning with today's semi-final against the West Indies.
"At the end of the day, you've got to be consistent and that's what we try to do in every match. We need it (contributions from batsmen besides Virat) in a big way because this is a semi-final," said Team Director Ravi Shastri at the Wankhede Stadium. "I believe we have played to only 70 per cent of our ability so far in this tournament, so here (batting) is where we can improve and let's hope it happens.
In a semi-final, you have to bring your 'A' game to the fore. You cannot depend on one or two players. You need six or seven players to step up and that has not happened in this tournament. So let's hope tomorrow is the start," added Shastri, well aware of the dangers posed by Darren Sammy & Co's T20 specialists-ridden outfit. "I have said this earlier and I repeat that this West Indies side is one of the most dangerous sides in the shortest format of the game. They have some very explosive players. They have quite a few match-winners." So how does one plan for an unpredictable side like the West Indies?
According to Shastri, you don't. "In this format, you are bound to get a hiccup. It's a tight format and things happen very quickly, but deep down, you have to focus on your strengths and keep hammering away. All you can do is focus on what you do best. So, we will play to our strengths tomorrow," he said in the hope that the hiccup doesn't come about today.
MS Dhoni India
> Chris Gayle gets out early
> Southpaw Suresh Raina gets back to form
> Pacer Ashish Nehra continues to provide early breakthroughs
Darren Sammy West Indies
> He gets some runs and wickets under his belt
> Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell provide an all-round show
> Dhoni has an off-day behind the stumps
> Vs NZ: Rohit 5, Dhawan 1, Raina 1
> Vs Pakistan: Rohit 10, Dhawan 6, Raina 0
> Vs Bangladesh: Rohit 18, Dhawan 23, Raina 30
> Vs Australia: Rohit 12, Dhawan 13, Raina 10