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T20 World Cup: India needed a reason to celebrate, they've got one for the time being

The Men in Blue finally opened their account in the T20 World Cup with a convincing victory over Afghanistan

Although qualification hopes remain distant, Team India managed a sensational 66-run win over Afghanistan [Source: ICC]

Although qualification hopes remain distant, Team India managed a sensational 66-run win over Afghanistan [Source: ICC]


Anjishnu Roy

Published: 3 Nov 2021 6:48 PM GMT

As the nation readies to embrace the festival of lights Diwali with plenty of fervour and enthusiasm, it has found another reason to add to the list of celebrations. The Men in Blue finally, finally, broke their jinx in the ongoing T20 World Cup and got back to doing what they do best with a marvellous victory against Afghanistan.

For much of the tournament (well, to be fair the two hardest matches in the group) India has limped and stuttered. The batting unit disadvantageously asked to bat first on both occasions crumbled under the pressure and got stuck in a rut during the middle overs. The uncharacteristic and conservative batting displays meant that the bowlers had nothing to work with and they too, had looked powerless so far.

The openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma stitched a 140-run partnership between them, India's highest in a T20 World Cup innings [Source: ICC]

Tonight, however, was a different tale on both departments. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, who were terrorized by Shaheen Afridi in the campaign opener against Pakistan, returned to swashbuckling form and style. Not only did they find boundaries with a fair amount of ingenious shots, but they also weren't afraid of dancing down the track and taking on the spinners.

Rashid Khan, widely touted as the best T20 spinner in the world at the moment, found no respite either. He conceded 36 runs in his four overs and failed to pick up a single wicket โ€“ unbelievable for a bowler of his stature and calibre.

KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma got in their groove and their opening partnership was enough to take the game away from Afghanistan. In fact, their 140-run stand today is the highest partnership for India in a Men's T20 World Cup innings. Rohit Sharma, who got out on 74 and KL Rahul, who was dismissed for 69 ended up registering the second and third-highest individual scores for an Indian opener in the T20 World Cup.

Rohit Sharma got off the blocks pretty early tonight and looked to be in his element [Source: ICC]

In the post-match presentation ceremony, Rohit Sharma, who was adjudged as the Player of the Match, spoke about the importance of getting out of the blocks early. "Whatever the team needs me to do, I got to do that. Usually, I don't do that (attack early); I assess the deck and then attack. But today we know the run rate could come into play," he said. This approach also became doubly important given that the cataclysmic starts in the previous two games set a lacklustre tone for the rest of the batting unit.

Even when KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma got out, India didn't send captain Virat Kohli at his usual number three position. Out came power hitters in Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant and they made sure that the balls disappeared into the stands. Pandya and Pant had both looked off-colour of late but their strike rates tonight โ€“ 269.23 and 207.69 โ€“ left little more to be desired. This meant that India would finish with the highest total in the T20 World Cup so far โ€“ 210.

Chasing such a gigantic total was always going to be a tough ask anyway even with the advantage of dew in the second innings, but things went from bad to worse when India's opening pacers Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah removed the Afghan openers for a combined total of 13.

Ravichandran Ashwin made his return to the Indian T20I side after almost four and a half years and also picked up a couple of wickets [Source: ICC]

Ravichandran Ashwin, playing his first T20I match for the country in almost four and a half years, marked his return with a successful outing as well. He got the wickets of Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran who were starting to look dangerous while his partner-in-crime Ravindra Jadeja accounted for Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Jadeja's fielding today was superb as usual but his best moment in the field tonight was marred by the third umpire intervening with a 'Not Out.'

Captain Mohammad Naib, who scored 35, and Karim Janat, who smashed a 22-ball 42 were the best performers with the bat for Afghanistan. However, not only did they fail to win the game but they also couldn't stop India from registering a positive Net Run Rate as they ended up winning the game by 66 runs!

Yes, it's still a long way for India to have any hopes of progressing further. What's even worse is that their fate is not in their hands. The Men in Blue will hope that Afghanistan does them a favour by defeating New Zealand and that they themselves manage convincing victories in their remaining games against Namibia and Scotland. It's a tough ask, without a doubt, but for the time being this win is enough to light up this year's Diwali even more.

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