Why did fancied India lose to New Zealand at Old Trafford?
Harish Kotian identifies the reasons for the defeat that stunned a nation.
IMAGE: A disappointed India Captain Virat Kohli after losing the semi-final against New Zealand at Old Trafford, July 10, 2019. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
After a fantastic show through the league stages of the World Cup, India came undone in the semi-final against New Zealand and crashed out tamely on Wednesday.
The Indian batsmen let the team down big time as the Top 3 perished cheaply and the middle order was unable to bail the side out.
The Indian bowlers had bowled their hearts out before rain forced the semi-final into the reserve day to restrict New Zealand to 239, after the Kiwis elected to bat first at Old Trafford.
An angry Captain Virat Kohli questioned the shot selection of some of his batsmen, as players like Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya were guilty of throwing their wickets away after getting off to starts.
It was only the counter-attacking half-century from Ravindra Jadeja that revived India’s hopes briefly, but New Zealand held firm to enter their second successive World Cup final.
So, what cost India a place in the final? Here’s a look at the key reasons for the defeat.
IMAGE: K L Rahul, right, as Virat Kohli walks back after his dismissal. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
The two-paced surface at Old Trafford made life difficult for batsmen.
New Zealand were quick to realise the situation and happy to settle for a score around the 240-run mark.
For India’s in-form batting line-up, featuring the world’s top two batsmen in ODIs — Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli — this was an achievable total.
But India got off to a horror start as Rohit, Kohli and K L Rahul all perished after scoring just 1 run each.
India were reduced to 5/3 in the 4th over, a situation from they never recovered from.
No settled option at No 4
IMAGE: Rishabh Pant reacts after his dismissal. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Following the bad start, it was imperative that the middle order got the innings back on track.
However, India had no experienced hand at No 4 to take control of the situation.
The young Rishabh Pant, for all his early promise, is definitely not the right choice for the crucial No 4 slot, and he confirmed it by throwing his wicket away after getting off to a good start.
Not having a proper middle order batsman for the No 4 position proved to be India’s bane in the semis, a game which saw their worst fears came true after both Kohli and Rohit perished cheaply.
Poor Shot selection
The Indian batsmen’s shot selection has also come into question.
While Rohit got a good delivery from Matt Henry and was caught behind, Kohli was guilty of playing across the line early on as he was trapped leg before wicket by Trent Boult.
Rahul played a loose poke away from his body and was caught behind when he could have easily let the ball go.
Pant and Pandya, who scored 32 each, played rash shots and gave their wickets away.
They attempted to slog sweep spinner Mitchell Santner when the need of the hour was to play risk-free cricket and build the innings in the middle order.
Blunder to send Dhoni at No 7
IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is run out by a direct hit from Martin Guptill. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Dhoni has the experience of 350 ODIs, but the team management preferred to hold him back despite a flurry of early wickets.
In an ideal scenario, Dhoni’s cautious approach would have the perfect antidote to New Zealand’s fiery spell with the new ball.
Dhoni, who in recent years has struggled with his strike rate, would have steadied the ship with his cautious approach.
That would have allowed the big hitters like Pant and Pandya to go for the big shots in the end when the asking rate shot up.
But the team management went for the exact opposite as Dhoni held one end up, but other than Jadeja there was no one else to get the big hits when needed.
IMAGE: Ravindra Jadeja, left, with Dhoni. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Ravindra Jadeja shone amidst the ruins.
He bowled a good spell before he effected the run out of Ross Taylor and then took a brilliant catch in the deep.
He also nearly helped India steal victory from the jaws of defeat courtesy his counter-attacking knock of 77 from 59 balls, inclusive of 4 sixes and as many fours.
But his dismissal to Trent Boult in the 48th over dented India’s slim hopes.
Dhoni’s run out
Dhoni briefly revived India’s hopes after Jadeja’s dismissal as he slashed Lockie Ferguson for a six, but his run out two balls later sealed his team’s fate.
He tucked a short ball from Ferguson towards fine leg and tried to steal a difficult second run to keep strike, but Martin Guptill caught him short with a direct hit.
Dhoni walked back for 50 as India slipped to defeat and exited the World Cup.
Dhoni’s slow approach
Could Dhoni have changed his approach a few overs earlier and relieved some pressure off Jadeja?
Dhoni never looked hurried even when things were getting out of hand and was content to turn the strike over to Jadeja and leave it to him to get the boundaries.
With 42 needed from 4 overs, Dhoni and Jadeja managed just 5 singles from the 47th over, bowled by Matt Henry.
India needed 37 from 3 overs, but Dhoni was still not ready to chance his arm.
With Dhoni not keen on taking the chance, Jadeja decided to take on Boult and ended up giving his wicket away as he miscued the lofted shot and was caught on the off-side.
With 31 needed from 2 overs, Dhoni finally showed some intent as he slashed a short wide ball from Ferguson for a 6 over point before he watchfully defended a full delivery back to the bowler and was run out off the third ball.
It felt like Jadeja, who brought India back with his attacking approach, was left with too much to do in the end.
Had Dhoni started playing a few shots a few overs earlier, it could have afforded Jadeja the luxury to be more careful with his shot selection with the asking rate under check.
The clarity, or the lack of it, over crucial selections also played a part in India’s defeat.
After being earmarked as the No 4 batsman for the last year or so, Ambati Rayudu was dumped going into the World Cup.
Vijay Shankar was picked as the No 4 for the World Cup a spot which eventually went to K L Rahul at the start of the tournament.
Shikhar Dhawan’s injury meant Rahul was drafted to the opening slot and Shankar got a few games at No 4 where he failed and subsequent injury saw him ruled out of the World Cup.
Rishabh Pant was then tried in that position and it was clear he lacks the temperament and experience to pull the team through from difficult positions.