In the first semifinal which was played over two days due to rain in Manchester, the Indian team restricted New Zealand to 239/8 in 50 overs. But India couldn't chase 240 to book a place in the final.
Faced with severe criticism over MS Dhoni’s batting position in the World Cup semifinal loss against New Zealand in Manchester, India’s chief coach Ravi Shastri has finally broken his silence, saying it was a collective decision to send the wicketkeeper-batsman at seventh spot. Speaking to The Indian Express, Shastri said that sending Dhoni early would have been a big risk which could have forced the team in more trouble. The team needed his experience, Shastri asserted.
“It was a team decision. 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,” he said.
In the first semifinal which was played over two days due to rain in Manchester, the Indian team restricted New Zealand to 239/8 in 50 overs. But India couldn’t chase 240 to book a place in the final. India lost four top-order batsmen for just 24 runs inside 10 overs before Ravindra Jadeja (77) and Dhoni (50) shared a 116-run seventh wicket.
The decision to send Dhoni to bat at the seventh position invited sharp criticism from many including Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Sunil Gavaskar and VVS Laxman. Dhoni’s 50 couldn’t guide India to overpower New Zealand and the team fell short by 18 runs. Former players were of the opinion that had Dhoni batted ahead of Hardik Pandya, the result would have different.
Speaking on the decision to send Rishabh Pant at the fourth spot, Shastri said, “And Rishabh Pant did look pretty secure when he got out to bat, even against (New Zealand fast bowler) Trent Boult, didn’t he? You could then say that if Pant had continued and not got out… but that’s sport. You grow up in quick time. He will learn, he already knows it.”
The coach added that he was happy that the team showed spunk. He said that even after losing Pant and Hardik Pandya, the team didn’t give up. “What a fightback that was.”
According to him, the match going into two days due to rains also played a part in the result.
“The momentum we had on Tuesday, that was gone. Stop, restart all over again. It wasn’t ideal but that’s how sport goes, sometimes,” he said.
Praising Dhoni, he said, “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.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) will review India’s World Cup performance once skipper Virat Kohli and Shastri return to the country on Sunday. The focus is likely to be on selections made for the game. It is believed that there will be few questions asked of Shastri, Kohli and the selection committee chief MSK Prasad.
Reports say that Ambati Rayudu’s handling is also likely to come up during the review who announced his retirement from the game. Rayudu was named a reserve in the World Cup-bound team but wasn’t called even after injury setbacks. It is believed that this prompted him to retire from all cricket.
The second matter that may come up for discussion is about the presence of three wicketkeepers in the team — Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni. The third point of contention is likely to be Dhoni’s batting position in the game. It has been reported that batting coach Sanjay Bangar was the one who decided on Dhoni’s slot and Shastri might be asked to give his view on the decision.