ICC World Cup 2019: Reasons behind India's demise

A dejected Indian team after losing the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand at Old Trafford on Wednesday. AFP

It hasn’t happened for the first time, and it won’t be the last time. As long as there is sport, there is going to be this tale that everyone loves and longs for – an underdog bringing down the fancied from its perch.

Besides their huge support base, it’s unlikely if many were rooting for an Indian win in the first semifinal here on Wednesday at Old Trafford. New Zealand were sentimental favourites for the world beyond India. Naturally, when the mighty Virat Kohli and company came undone against the affable Kiwis there was shock and celebration in equal measure depending upon which side of the fence you were.

Even with an attack that was tailor-made for the Old Trafford surface, that served up generous swing and seam movement, India were expected to reach the 240-run target with some degree of difficulty. In a short period of mayhem in the first 10 overs, the Kiwi seamers scythed through India’s top order, leaving them in utter disarray at 24 for four. Few teams have recovered from that position to win such a big game, and as it turned out, despite the best efforts of Ravindra Jadeja and M S Dhoni, they came up short for the second successive edition of the World Cup.

DH lists five crucial reasons that crushed a billion dreams.  

Middle order woes: Despite their best efforts, the Indian team management could never resolve confusion in the middle-order. They spent almost two years trying over a dozen players from No 4-7 but they went to the World Cup with Vijay Shankar No 4 that had never played in that position before. When the team came to England, it was reserve opener K L Rahul who began at No 4 before moving to open following Shikhar Dhawan’s injury-forced exit. Injury to Vijay, opened the doors for Rishabh Pant who was in good only in patches. Some of these issues weren’t their making, but several others were self-inflicted. The uncertain middle-order was waiting to implode, and it couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune game. To be fair to the middle-order unit, it remained uncooked as the top three (Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan/ Rahul and Virat Kohli) got the job done more often. And when it was exposed with hardly anything on the board in tough conditions, it wasn’t well-equipped to either to handle the pressure or the skills to conquer a relentless attack.        

Wrist-spinners disappoint: It was the Champions Trophy in England in 2017 when India decided to do away with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for their failure to take wickets in the tournament. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were fast-tracked into the team and the duo did exceedingly well to justify Virat Kohli, who was primarily responsible for this shift. While Jadeja remained in the mix, playing only second fiddle to the two wrist-spinners who remained prolific. In this World Cup, however, they have taken a combined 18 wickets. Kuldeep six sticks have come at a high average of 56.48 while Chahal has conceded 36.83 runs for each of his 12 wickets. Only Hardik Pandya (44.70) has conceded more than Chahal but less than Kuldeep for his 10 scalps among bowlers who have played four or more matches. In the semifinal, Jadeja (1/34) comfortably out-bowled Chahal who leaked 63 for his one wicket.       

Buckling in pressure: India’s old failing -- buckling under pressure -- came to haunt them again in a crucial rubber. Over the last few years, with Virat, Rohit and Dhawan scoring bulk of the runs and Dhoni holding fort in the middle, India had come to be known as good chasers. In this tournament, however, they have chased thrice and lost two of them – one against England in the league stage and the other in the semifinal against New Zealand. In the face early losses, they panicked and paid the price.

Fielding lacked intensity: Throughout the tournament, India’s fielding lacked intensity with a few of their players not measuring up to expectations. They dropped easy catches, misfielded and gave away several overthrows by unnecessarily taking a shy at the stumps only to see no fielder backing up their throws. Only Kohli, Jadeja and Pandya were notable exceptions while the rest fell below standard. In the semifinal alone, they conceded several extra runs through misfields and overthrows.

Dhoni conundrum: In eight innings, Dhoni has batted in three different positions despite the captain claiming that he has been assigned a fixed role. With a role to play around big hitters, he largely restricted himself to protecting the tail from getting exposed while adding more pressure on the other batsmen.

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