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Mohammed Shami’s exclusion in the semis is baffling

Delhi: Perhaps this is not how Ravindra Jadeja wanted things to pan out in semi-final against New Zealand. He came to the crease at a stage when India had lost 6 wickets for 92. Like a consummate all-rounder, Jadeja decided to cut loose, and unleashed some brutal hitting, which included four sixes and a flurry of boundaries. At one stage, the team started inching closer to victory. But his heroics failed to save the team from an eighteen run loss. His defiant knock of 77 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s slow 50 were the only silver lining in the Indian innings that is otherwise nothing to write home about.

However, India’s loss to the Kiwis in the semis raises a raft of questions that need answering. Knives are already out for both skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri after India’s elimination from the World Cup. Cricket experts are wondering what made Kohli send Dhoni at No 7, instead of No 5, to bat. Frankly speaking, both Rishab Pant and Hardik Pandya are inexperienced players, who didn’t really rise to the occasion. They got out due to their poor selection of shots. By the time, Dhoni came to bat at No 7, the required run rate had already started creeping up. He kept taking singles, and looked happy playing second fiddle.

team india semi final icc world cup
Mohammed Shami, who took 14 wickets in just four matches, did not get included in playing eleven. Courtesy: (AP Photo)

The exclusion of pacer Mohammed Shami in the semi final has equally baffled cricket experts and fans. Had Mohammed Shami played in the match, he would have definitely made an impact. Indian cricket fans would never forget Chahal’s 44th over of the New Zealand innings. He gave away 18 runs, the margin by which the Kiwis won the match. It is equally baffling as to what made the skipper opt for Dinesh Karthik. In yesterday’s match against the Kiwis, it beats one how an experienced batsman like him, could waste 20 deliveries to score one run. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can.

So, can this defeat also be attributed to India’s over-reliance on Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli? India’s victories in this World Cup have been mainly because of Rohit Sharma’s five centuries which took the score to 300 plus. Kohli also played some good innings in the last few matches. And if India won all the major matches, it was also because of Jasprit Bumrah’s deadly bowling spells that completely choked the opposition in the final overs. Other bowlers who contributed to India’s victories were Shami and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.


team india semi final icc world cup
New Zealand, after beating India, became the first team to reach ICC World Cup 2019 final

In an interview to a TV channel, Sachin Tendulkar, while praising the brilliant captaincy of New Zeeland skipper, Kane Williamson, said that for any team to win in a crucial match, all the players should chip in, and not simply expect players like Dhoni or Jadeja to fire on all cylinders. Tendulkar’s comments should definitely resonate with cricket fans, who know that what Dhoni has done for his country all these years, is incomparable. His gritty knock of 50, under the most trying circumstances, before being run out (another brilliant piece of fielding by Martin Gupthill) in what could be his final World Cup match, will forever remain etched on the palimpsest of cricket lovers’ minds.

If India lost the semis, credit should also go to the Kiwis for their brilliant fielding and sensible bowling. Williamson’s field setting was equally admirable. The World Cup final without India definitely looks a boring prospect. But on a given day, one team performs better than the other. This is a reality Indian cricket lovers must take in their stride.

Aditya Mukherjee

The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi

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