India faced an 18-run defeat in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup against New Zealand. Chasing 240 to win, the side lost Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul within a total of five runs on the board. In the final delivery of the 10th over, India also lost Dinesh Karthik.
However, many were left scratching their heads over the absence of India's wicketkeeper-batsman, MS Dhoni.
Dhoni has been a regular feature at number 5 for India, and even with the arrival of Rishabh Pant at number 4, it was the former Indian captain who followed him in the game preceding the semifinal. However, the management opted to send Dinesh Karthik, and then Hardik Pandya, ahead of Dhoni.
Even Sourav Ganguly, who had been on commentary duty for the game, slammed the decision. “Why no MS Dhoni? It’s inexplicable. He’s not out yet when India are under pressure. That’s not acceptable,” Ganguly said on-air.
In an interview with The Indian Express, India's head coach Ravi Shastri provided the reasoning behind the decision.
"It was a team decision," Shastri told The Indian Express.
"Everyone was in with it - and it was a simple decision, too. Last thing you wanted was Dhoni coming out to bat early and getting out - that would have killed the chase. We needed his experience later. He is the greatest finisher of all times - and it would have been criminal to not make use of him in that way. The whole team was clear on it."
The coach also praised MS Dhoni's performance, insisting that the former Indian captain had a great chance of leading India to victory, if not for an unfortunate runout.
"He was magnificent. The composure in the situation. And let me tell you, if not for that unfortunate runout, I think he had his calculations going inside his head. Which ball to hit, how much to keep for (James) Neesham's last over. You could see his brain was ticking. He wanted to do it so desperately and it was clear on his face when he came back to the dressing room," Shastri said.