Heartbreaking End, But India Can Count Positives from WC Campaign
A billion dreams came crashing down as Team India went on to lose their semi-final clash against New Zealand in the World Cup 2019. After gathering momentum and pitching in with a dominating performance to end as the top-ranked team in the league stage, the Men in Blue huffed and puffed their way for a spot in the summit clash, only to fall an agonising 18 runs short of the target.
Chasing 240 to win on the Reserve Day, Virat Kohli’s men were rocked by a brilliant display of swing bowling upfront by the New Zealand seamers Matt Henry, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson. Coupled with a tentative modus operandi, after their senior pros Kohli and Rohit Sharma had been sent back, and poor shot selection, the Indians were always on the back-foot, and despite best efforts from “bits and pieces cricketer” Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni, the target never seemed within reach.
However skipper Kohli was a proud man despite disappointment writ large on his face. Acknowledging that all it took was “45 minutes of bad cricket” to push them out of the event, the Delhiite did not forget to appreciate his players who gave it their all throughout the event.
Even though the team returns back empty-handed with a few areas still needing work, they can be proud of their fighting spirit, and their never-say-die attitude that made them such a threat throughout the edition.
Rohit Steps Up After Dhawan’s Injury
It was no secret that for India to compete in the edition, they needed their premier duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to go big in the World Cup. The latter, for all his success in multi-team tournaments, had earned himself the title of ‘Mr. ICC’, and he did not disappoint as he went on to notch up his sixth ton in ICC events against Australia. However, his presence was short-lived as a Pat Cummins delivery climbed onto him to strike his thumb, ruling him out for the remainder of the World Cup.
With KL Rahul’s technical flaws against the short deliveries well-known, it was upto Sharma to take over the reins of the top-order. The duo of Dhawan and Sharma along with Kohli had scored more than 55% of the total runs scored by Team India from January 2017 till the start of the edition, and in the absence of the left-hander, the onus was on the two stalwarts to guide India through.
Sharma, in particular, impressed with his ability to read situations and pace his innings accordingly, which in the end helped him accumulate five tons.
Against England, on a tough track, he held his end up as his side struggled to sore 28 in the first ten overs, but then caught on to make 102 off 109. He was aggressive from ball one against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the succeeding two games, with his foot movement and his back swing ending up as the highlights. Though he fell to a nagging delivery outside off in the semis, Rohit had done enough to walk out of the World Cup a more mature and a calm player.
India’s Own Pace Bowler They Can Swoon Over
India had never really caught on to the concept of swooning over and admiring a pace bowler. While Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan left their indomitable mark in the nation’s cricketing history, they were almost always overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid or Sourav Ganguly. Spinners always found more favour; with the frequent injuries to seamers or their inability to bowl in the 140s consistently working against them.
Banging in short at 141kmph or taking the pace off the ball when he sees the batsman get ready for a particular shot, Bumrah’s variations and his ability to keep churning out the yorkers match-after-match made him a tough bowler to navigate. He ended up with 18 wickets at an economy rate of 4.41 – the best by any bowler who bowled more than 45 overs in the World Cup. Twenty four months ago, Bumrah had been termed a T20 bowler, and here he was, two years later, leading India’s bowling attack in the greatest event of them all.
The old-fashioned cricketer, who will not fall into the predefined notions of a fast bowler – he hardly ever glares in anger at the batsman, but rather is quick to whip out a smile – ends the World Cup as India’s biggest star.
Pandya & Pant the Future Stars to Watch Out For
A lot of discussion before the World Cup revolved around whether Hardik Pandya could do justice to his tag of a seaming all-rounder, and who India’s number four would be. Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav were the candidates to make the number four position their own, but it is Rishabh Pant – not in the squad originally – who walks out as a future prospect for that position.
Called in to replace Dhawan, the 21-year old played his first game against England, and walked out to bat after Kohli had been sent back. A good looking shot off Liam Plunkett got him going. There were a few hits that were needless, but his flair and his talent were unmistakable. Scores of 48, 4 and 32 followed in the remaining games, and though he needs to work on his shot selection according to various situations, it should not be a surprise to see Pant evolve into one of the greatest match-winners.
Pandya, who has emerged a more calmer player after his ban earlier this year, carried forward his IPL form into the World Cup, consistently delivering with both bat and ball. However, it is his contributions with the ball that will leave Kohli mighty pleased.
Consistently bowling his ten overs economically – his most expensive spell was 0/60 that came against England - allowed Team India to beef up the batting order. The Gujarat all-rounder’s variations in pace along with his slower cutters made life miserable for the rivals, and the team would hope that he can carry his bowling form forward, so that Kohli can stick to his preferred combination of playing six proper batsman and five bowlers, with Pandya acting as the fifth bowler.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)