Written by Zaheer Abbas
To start with, India were a bit overconfident in the semifinal against New Zealand. They have an excellent batting line-up, no doubt, and 239 wasn’t a big score on this ground. But then you have to play till the last ball to win. The Indian batting is so strong that before the semifinal, their middle order wasn’t under this kind of pressure at any point in this World Cup.
And when put under pressure, it failed. It happened in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan in 2017 also, when they had lost a few wickets at the top. When two or three batsmen were gone, they didn’t know what to do. They were stuck and confused.
They thought they would win the game, because 240 was an easy target for them. But it’s not that easy all the time. You have to score the runs to win. New Zealand had the ball in their hands and sometimes India’s batting, despite being strong, gets rattled.
India have always done well when their openers have done well; when they had good starts. Then everybody scores runs. But when the start is bad, you saw what happened this time. So it’s not easy under pressure. And India had never been under pressure in this tournament. It proves now that their middle order cannot handle pressure.
(MS) Dhoni played almost till the end. (Ravindra) Jadeja was playing very well. He was hitting the ball well. But Kane Williamson outsmarted India tactically with the way he attacked upfront and the way he set the field. New Zealand won the game, which means they outsmarted India.
As for Dhoni, it’s not for me to decide whether he should hang up his boots. Any player would know how long he would be able to play international cricket. But Dhoni’s position in the batting order wasn’t fixed. Sometimes he was coming at No. 5, sometimes further down. A batsman is never settled this way. His World Cup performance wasn’t that good, to be honest. But I think he still has cricket in him.
As for Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, they have proven their mettle in the past. But they are better players when India have a good start. Under pressure, it looked difficult for them. Dhoni and Jadeja are the two players down the order who can play under pressure. Squad selection depends on the selectors and team management. So if they didn’t pick the likes of Ajinkya Rahane or Cheteshwar Pujara, there must be some reason behind that. If a player is going too slow (for the team management’s liking), it’s difficult to pick him in an ODI side. You can pick him as an opener or a No. 3 batsman. But to be honest, India were not thinking that their batting would come under pressure. If you ask me about New Zealand’s chances in the final, I expect England to win the semifinal and do well in the final.
With regards to the second semifinal, if you compare Australia and England, their openers have done very well and that’s why they are winning matches. But middle-order batsmen from both sides are not performing that well. New Zealand have played World Cup semifinals so many times. But as far as the final is concerned, I would still say it’s not that easy for them to win it. I doubt it very much.