India’s WC dreams virtually over

Wednesday 03rd November 2021 07:28 EDT

Rishabh Pant’s constant exhortations from behind the stumps for 'one more wicket', lacked the ring of conviction and may as well have fallen on deaf ears.

As New Zealand, without any scoreboard pressure chasing 111, cantered along merrily, with Darryl Mitchell (49 off 35) at times toying with the much-vaunted attack, India’s shoulders drooped, the faces went grim and their pre-tournament billing appeared manufactured.

Even the usually exuberant-till-the-last Virat Kohli seemed to have a black cloud hovering over him. Professional sportsmen learn to accept defeat with equanimity but the smile left the Indian captain completely as he kept shuffling nervously with hands behind his back.

New Zealand, all the while, marched inexorably towards victory. When they eventually did so, by 8 wickets with 33 balls remaining, it was a completely dominant and thoroughly clinical performance.

Was Kohli thinking about whether his captaincy was destined to end without an ICC trophy? Was Rohit Sharma, as he trudged back to his fielding position after every ball, still smarting about being demoted from his usual opening slot? Had the Indian Premier League left India’s top players drained?

Was there an acceptance, from those responsible beyond the field of play, that India’s squad selection may not have been ideal? Had the introduction of MS Dhoni as last-minute interlocutor between coach Ravi Shastri and Kohli led to too many talking heads?

“It was quite bizarre,” Kohli said afterwards about the defeat. “Our body language was not right as we entered the field.” India’s second straight shellacking in as many games has effectively ruined their World Cup dreams and left them staring at an early exit. Barring an accident for New Zealand against one of the minnows, India are out of the semifinals, leaving them with a lot of time to mull over the questions that matter.

New Zealand were in control throughout and every change captain Kane Williamson made came off. So completely dominant were the bowlers, right from the Powerplay on, that for the first time in this World Cup, there was no boundary hit between overs 7-15.

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