The very eventful cricket world cup 2019 just concluded in England and Wales left behind nostalgic memories. The favor of the effervescent event has not died yet. The excitement, tensions and competitiveness of the best ever final at Lords is being right across the cricket world. This writer has witnessed every single ball of all 48 matches on television initially from Queensland, later from Melbourne.
The final was viewed from Kolkata where we are engaged in delivering an Australian government sponsored training program for technical and managerial officials of Afghanistan. Cricket featured among talks everywhere. Even Andrew Ford Consulate General of Australia in Kolkata while launching the program at a Kolkata hotel started with CWC2019 preparing the wicket for me trying my finger spin. My Indian friends, Afghan participants, in shops and markets, Kolkata Museum, book shops I had to discuss cricket. What a cricket madness CWC has created. Questions are being asked why tournament’s hot favorite could not fly over Kiwis. Why Bangladesh could not qualify for the semi final? Why Australia looked pretty ordinary against England in the semi final? Did Afghanistan delivered in CWC 2019 what was expected of them? Why the deflected stroke of Ben Stokes in the 100th over of the final match awarded 6 runs instead of 5 to England? Our Sri Lankan coordinator Ishika asks my opinion about mixed performance of her team Sri Lanka. In four episodes would try discussing about the above. I know for sure in Durgapur and Jharkhand over the next few days more intriguing questions would be put across me.
It is not that this writer’s heart is not pumping. In the preview of CWC in Banglanews24 I mentioned my unique position. Born as Pakistani, winning an Independent Country Bangladesh in 1971, migrating to Australia in 2005 and getting citizenship on due course , working as advisor of Afghanistan Government for four years from 2010-14 gave me world of opportunity for knowing a lot of cricket in these four countries . My commitment is undivided in cricket for Bangladesh. I have seen cricket grow like grass in Bangladesh having first hand experience of many historic events of cricket in Bangladesh. From childhood till 1980s Pakistan and West Indies were the teams I followed till Bangladesh qualified for playing in World Cup. After migrating to Australia in 2005 and being associated a bit in Australian cricket developed interest for Australian cricket. From 2010 -2014 from my stay in Afghanistan as advisor to Ministry of Mines & Petroleum followed the growth of Afghanistan cricket.
Why India Failed To Get Across New Zealand?
In many ways ICC cash cow India influence ICC decisions. The CWC 2019 matches schedule, format in some ways appeared to be influenced to some extent. Team India was favored with starting their missions a bit late while other teams played at least 2 matches and a few even three .Team India was given breathing time after engagement of their players in IPL 2019 . India got more times for acclimatizing to English wickets and the advent of English summer. India looked pretty settled before they started their first match. The selection of the squad and even selection of the team in early matches were widely discussed in Indian media. The omissions of Ambati Raidu and Reshab Pant were widely discussed. Rishab was ultimately called following injury to star opener Shikhar Dhawan. But frustrated Ambati Rayadu announced retirement. Ignoring in form Shami in most matches was also discussed. The outcome of the series gave indication of lack of consensus in Indian camp. Even then superior quality of Indian team, depth and diversity of the squad made them cruise to the top of the table after 45 first round matches. India had 15 points from 9 matches having lost to England in a very important match at crunch time. India was forced to share a point in a rain ruined match.
Many thought India was not keen to chase England set target for winning. Some thought it could be strategy for shutting the door of its neighboring three Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. These teams still had opportunity for qualifying. England could get knocked out if India won their match against England. Losing the match India lost winning momentum. Many thought India was lucky winning close fought matches against Bangladesh and Pakistan.
In group matches Indian top order Rohit, Rahul and Kohli scored bulk of their runs. The middle order looked suspect against quality bowling of opponent bowlers. Pant, Pandya, Dhoni could not transfer their T20 skills quickly to ODI mode. It was sad finding Indian batsmen which plays spin like chalk and cheese struggled against spin of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and New Zealand.
Still India finishing on top among top four set a date with CWC 2015 losing finalists for semi final at Manchester. Indian team was so much over confident that Indian media started talking about final before even appearing in the semi final.
The wickets started favoring quality pace bowling on green top wickets under cloud cover. Quality Indian pacer Mohammad Shami was ignored in playing XI in the semi final though he took bucket full of wickets in few matches he played including a hat trick. On a wicket where Henry, Boult and Fergusson crushed Indian batting omission of Shami was ridiculous.
Even then India did well restricting New Zealand to 211/5 in 46.1 overs on day one of the rain impacted semi final. The match rolled to day two kept reserved. This created issues for India a bit. If the match was not affected by rain perhaps India could cruise hope overhauling below par Kiwis set soft target. Next morning New Zealand added 28 runs setting India 240 runs to chase for a win.
But wicket became juicy by then from some moisture from over night rain. Overhead cloud made it ideal for swing for world class Kiwi pacers Henry, Boult and Fergusson. India was left tottering at 4/24 by the 10th over. Rohit , Kohli and Rahul left for only 5 runs on board . Kiwis tasted blood. Kohli and team think tank made serious strategic mistake. Sending MS Dhoni at 5 was the most appropriate choice for his cool head, excellent cricket sense and past proven record. But Kohli sent Pant, Pandya and Karthik ahead of MSD even when India was tottering. Young Pant and Pandya are excellent stroke makers and good enough for 30-40 if top order batsmen provide them platform. But the case was very different on the day. MSD was sent at 7 and quality all rounder Jadeaj at 8. By then steep target made the run chase almost impossible. Still Dhoni and Jadeja played superbly almost snatched the match from the Kiwis. But Kiwi bowlers consistently bowling at right length and Kiwis fielding like agile Panthers stooped Indian late order avalanche. Kiwis knocked out India.
I would rather say it was poor match planning , wrong selection of playing eleven , mistakes by Kohli in rotating batting order led to Indian demise before they were due to die in glory.
To be continued
BDST: 0950 HRS, JULY 17, 2019