The 2014 World Twenty20 wasn't supposed to start like this for the defending champion West Indies. Embarrassed by an India squad coming off a disappointing outing at the 2014 Asia Cup, the seven-wicket loss puts qualification for the Super 10 knockout stage at serious risk.
India's great weakness was supposed to be their bowling. And while the Men in Blue looked convincing in their opener against Pakistan, the Indian group of bowlers didn't look particularly daunting.
When MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to field first, the Windies should have come out firing. And they should have scored a lot more than the eventual 129 runs the team ended up with.
Faced with such a low number, the chase never looked particularly difficult for India, who finished the job with five batsmen, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma each picking up a half-century.
The West Indies bowlers certainly didn't look good facing the Indian batsmen, but backed by a mere 129, the task was always going to be near impossible.
Simply put, the offensive output was embarrassing. This particular fan best described how the team looked in its first WT20 outing:
Only one batsman showed up Sunday, and that was Chris Gayle. The veteran contributed 34 runs, and as Gabbbar Singh points out, as soon as he was lost, the team crumbled:
The West Indies surrendered the match the moment Chris Gayle got out, now they are just waiting at the airport boarding area.— Gabbbar Singh (@GabbbarSingh) March 23, 2014
When it was announced that ace hitter Kieron Pollard would be missing this year's T20 because of a knee injury, as reported by Reuters (via The Indian Express), everyone knew it spelled trouble for the Windies. Replacing a top offensive weapon is hard for any team, but injuries happen all the time.
West Indies had depth. West Indies were consistent. That was the tale we kept hearing, and the group would be explosive enough to cope with the loss of Pollard:
A measly 129 runs later, it's safe to say that statement was wrong. The defending champions didn't just lose; they got hammered by a group of spin bowlers who were being made fun of a week ago.
Credit the Men in Blue: Their bowlers took care of business and looked very strong in the rout. And with the way the team is playing, it is very likely India would have beaten West Indies even if Pollard had been there. But not like this. Not with the Windies embarrassing themselves in their opener.
Muddassir Hussain asked the question currently on every fan's lips:
How badly are West Indies missing Pollard?— Muddassir Hussain (@MuddassirSpeaks) March 23, 2014
For CANOC Broadcasting, it's not so much a question as it is a simple fact:
Pollard has one of the biggest bats in all of cricket. The all-rounder brings confidence, even swagger to the Windies squad, and the entire batting order is built around him. One massive hit from Pollard can change the entire complexion of a match, often to the benefit of the Windies.
Without Pollard, West Indies rely on Gayle and Gayle alone. That simply won't cut it at this level, as we witnessed firsthand.
The Windies might rediscover their bowling form before their next bout with hosts Bangladesh Tuesday. Other batsmen might step up, and the team still has the overall quality to secure qualification from a difficult group that was blown wide open when Pakistan defeated Australia by 16 runs.
But without Pollard in the squad, this simply isn't the same team, and repeating as champions seems almost impossible.