The 5 reasons why India's World Cup dream fell apart
India were expected to be too strong for New Zealand, who had limped into the finals. However, it wasn't just that match where their tournament came unstuck.
India’s dream of winning their third world cup ended earlier than many had expected, with a surprise loss to New Zealand at the semi final stage. So where did it go wrong for one of the tournaments favourites? These are five areas where India’s World Cup campaign unraveled.
Number 1 – Late start
India started their tournament a week after the first match. When South Africa were playing their third match, India were playing their first.
This does not happen by accident.
When you turn up to a tournament, you get your draw and you do the best with it. If the reports of India requesting a late start are correct, then they have ventured into a place they should not have gone. If they didn't request a late start, then India starting a tournament a week after everyone else borders on the farcical, and that should be taken up with the ICC.
By starting late India were going to have a condensed schedule, a six and a half week tournament was condensed into a 5 and a half week tournament. What may have been overlooked though in requesting this (or perhaps even wanting this) was they were going to have a lot of matches at the back end of the tournament, something most teams would want to avoid.
This caught up with India. They finished the tournament with 4 matches in 11 days. Hardik Pandya was not fit and struggled in the semi final battling niggling injuries. When their top order hit the wall in the semi final it came in dramatic fashion.
Number 2 – Selections
How was match winner Rishabh Pant not selected in India’s initial squad? He went from a non selection to holding down the crucial number 4 spot. He went from ‘meant to be watching the World Cup at home on TV’ to ‘holding the middle order together’. They turned a non selection into the player batting at a crucial stage of the innings. This either meant he would be a hero and embarrass India’s selectors, or it was going to be too much for a young player to be asked to play the role normally left for a more experienced Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith or Joe Root.
Turning a non selection into such a pivotal role, only highlighted an original glaring error. The 16th man shouldn’t be your ‘turn to’ player, if he was your ‘turn to’ player, he should have been selected in the first place. He either was watching the game or having a free role batting down the order at 6 or 7, never should he have been batting in the number 4 slot.
Number 3 – Virat Kohli’s big match numbers
There can be no doubting Virat Kohli’s quality in one day cricket. There have been separate times in his career where he has made 4 centuries in 5 innings (2012) and 5 centuries in 9 innings (2017/18) where he has stamped his quality as a match winning limited overs batsman, and the arguments he is the greatest in this format of all time carried much weight.
But the reality now stands that Kohli’s World Cup knock out matches have been very poor. In six knock out matches he has managed 73 runs at 12.16. His finals numbers are also poor. An average of just 22.00 in 8 finals appearances in his career. Virat Kohli is a great batsman, but his big match numbers are on the extreme side of poor. In his last two world cup semi finals he has made 1 off 13 (vs Australia – 2015) and 1 off 6 (vs New Zealand). His 5 off 9 in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan was another big stage opportunity missed. Kohli will know his record is poor, and he will know how important he is to the Indian team. Opposition teams are well aware of his importance, not only in terms of runs, but in terms of the psychology to the Indian team when he misses out. The fact remains that when he has failed in these matches, his team has also failed in these matches.
Number 4 - Dinesh Karthik
The purpose of Dinesh Karthik being selected was to be a back up wicket keeper to MS Dhoni. However, for a reason only known to the Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli, he ascended into reckoning in the batting order at the back end of the tournament.
If there was something we learnt from the India vs England test series 12 months prior, was that Karthik’s best days at international level looked to be in the past, and not the present or future. His batting was way off the pace in that series, and in this world cup he missed out in his two times at the crease. His selection was baffling.
Number 5 – The rain
New Zealand won the toss in the semi final on a ground that had absorbed rain leading into the match. There was likely to be movement and it was also likely it would be difficult to bat on early. And it was.
New Zealand’s best chance appeared to be to get India’s top class batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, in and preferably out early. But they chose to bat.
New Zealand battled hard as India bowled well, and the ball did move around as New Zealand were ground to a bit of a stand still early. New Zealand were slow as Ross Taylor struggled to get going whilst surviving many close calls, including a low chance to Dhoni behind the wicket.
With the wicket on the slow side but flattening out, India were in pole position chasing 230-240 on the Tuesday. But the rain came.
What appeared to be New Zealand’s best chance, getting India’s top order against a moving ball on a morning fresh wicket was now coming to fruition. And it was by luck and not good management. It was due to the glorious uncertainly of the weather!
After adding 28 off the remaining 3.5 overs New Zealand had a crack at India’s top order when they were most likely to get them in, against a moving ball early in the day. And get them they did.
At 3/5 New Zealand were in front. They had got rid of 5 time centurion Sharma, and 5 time half centurion Kohli early in the innings. No matter who is to come after that, when you remove the best two batsmen for a pair of one’s there is always going to be a sense of nervousness for the chasing team. Ravi Jadeja played a blinder, but when he skied a ball to the safest hands in the game, Kane Williamson, India’s hopes were just about extinguished. Martin Guptill did that a little while later with a brilliant run out from backward square leg.
From there, there was only going to be one winner.