End of the dream

INDIA’s defeat to New Zealand in the semifinals of the cricket World Cup was a shock, but it shouldn’t be a surprise.

End of the dream

harinder@tribunemail.com

INDIA’s defeat to New Zealand in the semifinals of the cricket World Cup was a shock, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli had scored 1,089 between them before the knockout stage of the tournament. Top-class knocks from these two, and 361 runs by KL Rahul, had papered over the cracks in the team — and there indeed existed wide cracks in the middle-order. India’s batting was over-reliant on the top-three, named above. In the semifinals, India fielded an XI in which three players were not first-choice — Rishabh Pant was flown in from India as a replacement for the injured Shikhar Dhawan; Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja had been included in the playing XI in a combined total of three matches before the semifinals. The injury to Dhawan early in the tournament had forced Rahul to the opener’s spot, leaving a bigger breach in the middle-order. India had been struggling and failing to fill this breach during the course of this tournament.

New Zealand’s total, 239, seemed modest by the current standards, but they do have excellent new-ball bowlers. They removed India’s top-3 early and at 5/3, India needed a miracle to pull off the chase. Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni took India close, but the result was never in doubt because even as Dhoni dourly defended and Jadeja gathered the runs with gay abandon, the required run rate rose steadily. After 24/4 and 92/6, India’s win would have been possible only through a miracle — and Wednesday at Manchester certainly wasn’t a day of miracles.

After the loss, Kohli looked ashen-faced — thrice in three semifinals of the World Cup he has failed as a batsman; he said the defeat was heartbreaking. It should, also, be thought-provoking — perhaps Kohli would then realise that he should have played with caution rather than aggression at the start of his innings. Kohli also spoke about the need to be ‘balanced’, asking Indian fans to avoid extreme joy or sorrow in wins or defeats. He’s right, for that’s a life lesson applicable away from sport too, but it’s also easier said than done.

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