New Zealand’s opening bowler Matt Henry knew exactly what he had to do. He had to bowl according to their plan. India’s opening batsman Lokesh Rahul, unfortunately for India, did not know what to do. India had already lost their best batsmen Rohit Sharma at 4, and captain Virat Kohli at 5. Between deciding whether to step out and drive the ball, go back and defend it or simply leave it alone, Rahul dangled his bat outside his off stump. There was a faint nick which wicket keeper Latham grabbed with glee and India at 5 for the loss of 3 wickets faced almost certain defeat in the first semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Thanks to a splendid innings of 77 in 59 balls by Ravindra Jadeja, (perhaps the most valuable innings he has ever played for India so far) and his partnership of 116 with the veteran M S Dhoni ( 50 in 72 balls), India fought back but were in the end defeated by 18 runs. New Zealand entered the finals and India’s dreams of winning the World Cup for the third time after 1983 and 2011 came to a crashing halt.
The irony was that India which won 7 out of 9 matches and topped the table with 15 points in the league stage was knocked out, while New Zealand with 5 wins in 9 matches and ranked fourth in the table was through to the finals! They had in fact scraped through to the last four on account of a better run rate than Pakistan who had identical number of wins. As Virat Kohli pointed out in his post match talk, 45 minutes of poor cricket on their part had cost India the championship after having played well for over a month!!
Considering all this, I believe there is a lot of merit in adopting the rules of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the Cricket World Cup. There, the top team (Team 1) after the league matches plays Team 2 in the first Qualifier and the winner goes into the finals. Teams 3 and 4 play in the Eliminator. The loser of the Eliminator goes home while the winner of this next plays the loser of Qualifier 1 in Qualifier 2. The winner of Qualifier 2 then meets the winner of Qualifier 1 in the Finals. This appears to be more fair and equitable.
Of course, I realize that even in such a scenario India could have lost to Australia (Team 2 with 14 points), but they would have had one more chance by playing the winner of England (Team 3 with 12 point) versus New Zealand ( Team 4 with 11 points). It is most unlikely that they would have been 5 for the loss of 3 wickets again in that match as well!
Coming back to the semi-final that we lost, I found it strange that Dhoni was not sent in when India were tottering at 24/4 after Karthik was out. He could have guided young Pant and later Pandya to deliver a better performance. He is 38 years old and despite all his brilliance, I think, he was too cautious at first and left too much for the last two overs. One direct throw from Guptill and Dhoni was run out taking a second run after a bit of hesitation. It was curtains for India at 216 for 8, leaving the tail to get 240 required for a win.