For the second time in the space of two tournaments and a few weeks, Virat Kohli could be set to give up the reins of a T20 side amid despondency in the UAE.
India’s chances of advancing in the T20 World Cup are diminishing rapidly, after a second hefty defeat in the space of a week in Dubai.
In their first game since their opening night trouncing by Pakistan, the pre-tournament favourites were thumped by New Zealand by eight wickets.
The fact New Zealand reached their target of 111 in rapid time – with 33 balls left over – meant India also suffered another blow to their net run-rate.
There is much cricket still left in Group Two of the Super 12. But as it stands, India are winless, propped up only by Scotland beneath them, with a run-rate of -1.609.
Kohli announced before this competition he would be stepping down as India’s T20 captain after the event. He had gone home empty handed from the Indian Premier League on October 11, too, when his stint as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain ended in playoff defeat in Sharjah.
His India team’s demise on this occasion was brought about by a listless batting display, in the face of fine bowling by Trent Boult and Ish Sodhi.
Leg-spinner Sodhi celebrated his 29th birthday by having each of India’s two biggest stars both caught at long on.
The first of them, Rohit Sharma, had already had a life, when he was dropped first ball by Adam Milne off Boult.
He failed to make much of the reprieve, and he holed out to Martin Guptill, having reached 14 off 14 balls.
The crowd of a little over 14,000 was almost overwhelmingly there to see India kick-start their cup bid. So much seemed to rest on Kohli.
Even when the ground fell silent at Kohli’s dismissal, New Zealand’s Beige Brigade could barely get themselves heard above the sound of breaking hearts.
Kohli had managed just nine runs – all of them scurried between the wickets – when he tried to launch his 17th ball out of Dubai International Stadium. All he managed was to flick the ball up to Boult at long on.
That was off the first ball after the mid-innings drinks break, and it left India mired on 48-4. It meant Sodhi became the first played to dismiss Kohli three times in T20 internationals.
India could only cobble together 110-7 by the end of their 20 overs, with Boult taking 3-20, after Sodhi had signed for 2-17.
New Zealand were equally dominant with the bat. In the time it took India to register their first wicket in this tournament, Pakistan and England had won three matches, Ashgar Afghan had retired, and New Zealand were already well on their way to victory.
Seven days after the 10-wicket loss to Pakistan, India again looked flat with the ball. Jasprit Bumrah had some joy when Guptill chipped up a catch to Shardul Thakur at mid-on. Even then, Thakur looked uncomfortable in grabbing the ball at the second attempt.
Daryl Mitchell was the second wicket to fall to Bumrah, but had made 49 by that point and New Zealand were already as good as over the winning line.
Sodhi could toast his birthday with the player of the match award. “You spend a lot of time away from your friends and family overs the course of the year, so to celebrate your birthday with a win like that over a top side like India is pretty cool,” Sodhi said.
Kohli said his side remain optimistic of progressing, but pointed out they had needed to be more courageous.
“I don't think we were brave enough with bat or ball,” Kohli said. “The bowlers didn't have much to defend but we weren't brave when we walked out to field.”