India’s dreams were shattered at Old Trafford on Wednesday when they lost the semi-final of the 2019 cricket World Cup to New Zealand. The India batting’s top order crumbled on the day after they were set a target of 240 and despite a valiant comeback from Ravindra Jadeja (77) and MS Dhoni (50), India were all out for 221 to fall short by 18 runs. This is the second successive semi-final at the World Cup that India have lost after 2015.
The defeat will certainly raise a number of uncomfortable questions for head coach Ravi Shastri and the coaching crew. Shastri, who had a rare opportunity to achieve the record of winning the World Cup both as a player and coach this time, has always taken on his critics fearlessly.
India’s performances abroad over the past many months had nullified the backlash but now with India losing out in a World Cup semi-final, the knives will be out again. Shastri was India’s team director between 2014-16 when India had played the previous World Cup and lost in the semi-final as well.
A question over India’s middle order
One of the major questions that Shastri will face after India’s debacle will be over the middle order. Following the injuries to Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar that ruled them out of the tournament, India were left with little option to get their middle-order in shape. For the last few matches at the World Cup, India were playing as many as three wicket-keeper-batsmen in Dhoni, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik which gave the impression about the brittle middle order.
India were highly reliant on the top three – KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – while their No.4 slot remained an issue that was never settled. Different players were tried at the position at different times with Pant manning it on the last few occasions.
Ahead of the World Cup, the Indian team management had kept the media at an arm’s length and was also not comfortable in sending players for the mixed zone sessions during the warm-up games – a rule at ICC events, recently cited reports as saying. In fact, just before India’s maiden game against South Africa on June 5, the team sent net bowlers like Deepak Chahar and Avesh Khan to the event saying that it was a big stage for them to experience.
All those issues could not come back to hurt the team management.
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