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By Amlan Chakraborty
DUBAI (Reuters) - The business end of the Twenty20 World Cup risks becoming a party without a host with timid India staring at an early exit from the tournament they were expected to dominate.
England captain Eoin Morgan was merely voicing the popular perception last week when he described his team and Australia as the "joint second favourites" in the tournament behind Virat Kohli's India.
After all, Kohli's star-studded team had a clear head-start having experienced gulf conditions in the United Arab Emirates leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) before heading into the World Cup.
If the 10-wicket thrashing https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/lucky-13-babars-pakistan-break-india-jinx-style-2021-10-24 at the hands of arch-rivals Pakistan was already a nightmare, an India fan's world came crashing down entirely after Sunday's eight-wicket capitulation https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/new-zealand-beat-india-revive-t20-world-cup-campaign-2021-10-31 against New Zealand.
After that double whammy, India are only just mathematically alive in the tournament of which they remain the official hosts despite having to shift it out of the coronavirus-battered country.
It would also be a massive blow to the advertisers and the broadcasters if cricket's most followed team prematurely crash out of the showpiece event.
Kohli has blamed his team's timidity for their "bizarre" defeat https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/kohli-optimistic-despite-indias-bizarre-surrender-2021-10-31/#:~:text=DUBAI%2C%20Oct%2031%20(Reuters),semi-finals%20of%20the%20tournament by New Zealand but pundits believe the 2007 world champions need to overhaul their approach to 20-overs cricket.
"India are playing 2010 Cricket...The game has moved on," former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted.
The six sixes they hit and the meagre two wickets they claimed from their first two matches underline the struggle of the team, who languish in fifth place in Group II sandwiched between Namibia and Scotland.
Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah conceded bubble fatigue https://www.reuters.com/world/india/you-need-break-bumrah-says-india-suffering-bubble-fatigue-2021-11-01 had crept in after being on the road for six months but they also lacked clarity over batting roles heading into the tournament.
Kohli dumped his original plan to open the inning and sent KL Rahul, who has been in great form in IPL, to partner Rohit Sharma at the top against Pakistan.
Rohit dropped to number three against New Zealand with Ishan Kishan partnering Rahul in a desperate rejig that did not work.
In both the matches, India's brittle top order could not milk the powerplay overs and, once forced into a damage control exercise, the late surge never came.
Former players have bemoaned India's lack of "mental toughness" and said the team must reflect on their performance.
Kohli, who will step down as India's 20-overs captain after the tournament, said the batsmen must shed their hesitation and take "calculated risks" to stay alive.
"There's a lot of cricket in this tournament and something that we all must look forward to," he said.
India must win their remaining three group matches against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia handsomely and hope other results go their way to make the last four.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in Dubai; Editing by Toby Chopra)