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Who was to blame for India’s defeat?

Ball-tracking data suggests Rohit was wrong to say his bowlers didn’t bowl the right lines.

In the aftermath of India’s astonishing ten wicket defeat against England in the World Cup Semi Final there will be a lot of introspection, analysis and discussion about where things went wrong for India.

Clearly, when a team loses by ten wickets the bowling attack understandably comes under the microscope and Rohit Sharma was quick to point his finger of blame at his bowlers.

“I thought we still batted pretty well at the back end to get to that score, but we weren’t good enough with the ball,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation. “It was definitely not a wicket where a team could come and chase down [that target] in 16-17 overs. But yeah, these things happen. Like I said, with the ball we just didn’t turn up today.”

Rohit went onto blame the lines bowled by India’s bowlers as being his main frustration.

“We wanted to keep it tight, not give room, we looked at Adelaide pretty well, we know where the runs are scored. Square of the wicket is what we were quite aware of, and that’s where all the runs went today. Keeping it tight is something we spoke of but from there if the batsman plays a good shot we’ll take it. But that is something that didn’t happen today and that is a little disappointing.”

However, ball-tracking analysis of both team’s bowling shows that this was not the case. The beehive below shows all the boundaries scored by right-handers (Rishabh Pant hit one boundary) and it clearly shows that England’s boundaries generally came from balls on a considerably tighter line than India’s – who were more effective at punishing wide balls.

The fact India scored more boundaries off wide balls should come as little surprise, because across the innings the data shows that India actually bowled significantly straighter than England – contrary to Rohit’s post-match analysis.

England bowled more bowls down leg and wide than India who were more effective at staying on a tight stump line.

There certainly are strong and fair arguments that particularly once the ball stops swinging India’s bowling attack – without a high pace quick or a wrist spinner – lacks wicket-taking threat, and England’s brilliance brutally exposed that in the run-chase. However, to say that India’s lines were the problem appears to be inaccurate.

Perhaps a fairer assessment of where India lost the game came from their coach Rahul Dravid who in his post-match press conference admitted that after 15 overs, when India had scored 100 for 3, they were “15 or 20 runs shy of where we should have been.”

Why might that have been the case?

According to our Match Impact model the failures of KL Rahul (5 off 5), Sharma himself (27 off 28) and the struggles of Hardik Pandya (9 not out off 12) at the 15th over had cost India a total of exactly 20 runs. India had Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 43 off 35, earning +7 impact, to thank that their net batting impact stood at -13 after 15 overs.

NB: the reason why Rahul’s impact is worse than Rohit’s is that the earlier in the innings a wicket is lost, the more costly it is. Rohit then managed to accrue some extra impact thanks to his stabilising after the loss of an early wicket but his slow scoring rate and eventual dismissal still cost India.

Ultimately, thanks to Hardik’s explosive finish India finished up with a total of 168. The nature of those death overs created something of a perception that India were in charge of the game but according to our PitchViz model – which uses ball-tracking data to assess a par total – the par score on that pitch was 176, leaving India eight runs shy of par – typically amounting to around 10% win probability.

Against a batting-heavy team such as England you could make a case that India not only needed to get par but they needed to get beyond it. Ultimately, England batted so well—and India lacked wicket-taking threat—that even a total of 180 or 185 might not have been enough but there appears to be more nuance to this defeat than simply the bowling.

Ultimately no single player or group of players is ever to blame for a defeat—rather they are a combination of a multitude of factors—but when pointing the finger of blame squarely at his bowlers, Rohit might be advised to perhaps look a little closer to home.

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