Another heartbreak. The Men in Blue will have to wait another four years as India's dream of lifting a third World Cup has officially been crushed by New Zealand. India fell 18 runs short in a 240-run chase. The Men in Blue were tagged as 'favourites' along with England to lift the World Cup this year, but it seems like New Zealand had unfinished business since the 2015 WC final against Australia.
From restricting New Zealand to 239/8 on the reserved day of the semi-final, the Indian bowlers did their bit while Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed three. The target did not seem challenging at the time and could be understood as a walk in the park by many, but what followed next for India, was not according to the expected script.
Here are 5 reasons why India failed in the semis against New Zealand
* Top Order Collapse
Three wickets in 3.1 overs. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul fell on 1 run each. The new ball and the conditions is exactly what the Kiwis needed and removing the dangerous top-order in the start was what put the match to bed. The tournament's leading run-scorer fell to a delivery which was unplayable, while the Indian skipper fell to a plum of a delivery to be dismissed by LBW, while KL Rahul knicked an outswinger which was entirely not needed. With the trio gone, the pressure was immense despite the target being 240. India's top order has delivered and rescued the team, with the HIT-MAN leading from the front, but unfortunately, neither of the three who could have been game changers, make an impact when needed the most.
* Rishabh Pant and the ariel route
After the top order fell within the first three overs, Rishabh Pant was brought out to bat at number 4, which came as a shocker to all, given his temperament and form. Pant hung on for a while, took his time and showed maturity in the middle, but he eventually holed out for 32. It was the shot selection which was questioned. There was no need of him rushing into things given the target set and the balls remaining. Dinesh Karthik fell before Pant to a stunning one-handed catch taken by Jimmy Neesham. DK departed for 6 off 25 balls. However, Pant will have to learn to keep his shots grounded and work on being patient.
* Where was MS Dhoni?
With the top order gone, it was an MS Dhoni innings that was required. Taking the game deep and playing slow and steady like he has been doing throughout the tournament. When his innings would actually have mattered, Dhoni came in at No.7. The former captain as usual took his time to settle in, but at the time, it could have been too late given the required run-rate they had to catch up to. In what could be his last appearance in an ODI, the former captain did what he could but could not lead India home.
* Middle-order woes
The issue at hand which never been sorted out. India's middle-order has continued to struggle despite changes being made every now and then. They have still not figured out their No.4 batsman till date, trying Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar. Pant and Pandya did manage to get into their thirties, but eventually, that was not enough to get the Men in Blue through the day. It has been India's top order that has covered up for the countless errors made in middle, thus being a topic of discussion once again.
If one recalls, New Zealand hammered India in the warm-up game before the World Cup could commence. Trent Boult and Matt Henry at their best, swinging the ball which saw the Indian line-up fall like a pack of cards. Fast forward to the semi-final clash, viola! Unable to read the deliveries, India once again succumbed to swing by the Kiwi quicks which cost them the tournament. Masters of the overcast condition, New Zealand handsomely defended 240 on the board, winning by 18 runs to advance to the finals once again.
It's high time India sorted out their mess as the label of 'chokers' could be tagged soon.