Bhubaneswar: A billion dreams ended Wednesday with India’s 18-run loss to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC World Cup. There were many who saw it coming, probably not the Indian players and the team management. It is high time some analysis is done on the performance of the people – the coaching staff, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Bangar and Bharat Arun. What are their thought process and whether they will manage to contribute to the development of the Indian cricket team? As such losses at the crucial stages of top events is not acceptable.
South Africa have earned the tag of ‘chokers’ in big matches. Well that same tag can be used for India when it comes to the knockout stages of any event featuring all the top teams of the cricketing world. Statistics amply portray that.
India have since 2014 performed very well in a number of tournament only to lose in the semifinals and finals. It started off with the T20 World Cup final loss at Dhaka 2014. Then there were losses like 50-over World Cup (2015, Sydney), T20 World Cup semifinal (2016, Mumbai), Champions Trophy final (2017, London) and finally the 2019 defeat at Manchester. One will certainly have to look into why India are performing so badly at the knockout stages of big tournaments and whether the think-tank of the team is mainly responsible for it.
The question that is doing the rounds after Wednesday’s game is why MS Dhoni was sent in at No.7 and not before Dinesh Karthik and why was in spite of any impressive bowling show, Mohammed Shami not included in the playing XI. Many are of the opinion that Dhoni could have guided a hot-headed Rishabh Pant correctly and would have prevented him from playing the irresponsible shot that he did when India were just rebuilding. Also Shami’s wicket taking ability (14 wickets in 4 games) could have helped India’s cause. So many experts are holding the team management at fault for selecting the wrong team which led to India’s loss in the semifinals.
India’s dependence on the top-order also led to their defeat. Also the fact that in the last two years, in spite of various permutations and combinations, India have not been able to find the right No.4. The decision to choose Dinesh Karthik ahead of Amabati Rayudu turned out to be fatal. India played the New Zealand game with three wicket-keepers in the playing XI. They tried Vijay Shankar at No.4, it did not work, Karthik did not work and even the move to put Pant there flopped.
It was not Matt Henry or Trent Boult who turned the game decisively in New Zealand’s favour. Yes, they did make the early inroads by dismissing Rohit Sharma, Kohli and KL Rahul early. But it was left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner’s first spell 6-2-7-2 which firmly put New Zealand on the path to victory. He dismissed two of the biggest power-hitters in the modern-day cricket – Pant and Hardik Pandya. Maybe sending Dhoni early could have been better. He would have urged the two to bat more responsibly and rotated the strike to a nicety because he has the experience to do that.
Overall, it is the coaching staff who should equally be held responsible along with the players for the loss. They failed to come up with the right answers when the team needed. After all they failed to find the perfect No.4 in two years – then what were they doing?
Indian cricket is in need of better hands, that is for sure.