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Men's ODI WC: Faltering in final at Ahmedabad brings back familiar knockout sinking feeling for India

IANS | November 21, 2023 11:12 AM

NEW DELHI: The time between 2007 and 2013 fetched India unforgettable success in global ICC men’s events: the inaugural T20 World Cup triumph in 2007, the 2011 ODI World Cup victory on home soil and an exciting 2013 Champions Trophy win. But after that, the trophy cabinet has been bare.

After 2013, India never got their hands on the trophy, leaving its fans disappointed and puzzled over the inability to finish the line when it matters the most. Things seemed to make a change for the good in 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup, where India wowed fans with its electrifying performances in all departments to be on a ten-match winning streak.

That unbeaten run, built on sheer domination with bat, ball and field, had given its hugely passionate fans a real chance of seeing the sinking feeling in the knockouts being laid to rest. But in front of 92, 453 fans sporting a sea of blue at the Narendra Modi Stadium on November 19, that familiar feeling came back to haunt India again when it mattered the most.

A six-wicket defeat to an Australian team which had done its homework very well in terms of conditions and planning for every personnel in the opposition consigned the Indian team and its fans in stadium plus around the world to yet another heartbreak.

A day after the final, there was a sense of emptiness and eerie silence over how that familiar sinking feeling in the knockouts came all over again, denying India its date with its destiny – of achieving glory at home.

As the dust starts to settle down on the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup, one needs to start thinking on where it goes awry for India every single time in the knockouts. In the last three Men’s ODI World Cups, India have lost only four out of 28 matches. But here’s a catch – three out of those four losses came in the knockouts stage.

In the last ten years, India have the highest win percentage for matches in global tournaments, standing at 69.15%, but with no titles against its name. The bad record of the results in knockouts has made India look like a student who’s brilliant and tops the unit exams, but constantly gets the second spot in the year-end examinations.

So, what is it about the knockouts of global tournaments that India and its fans are made to revisit that familiar sinking feeling? Well, there’s no concrete answer to it. When this query was posed to Rahul Dravid in the post-final press conference, he also couldn’t zero in on an exact reason.

“If I knew the answer, I would say that. To be honest, I don't know. I've been involved in three now, one semifinal, and the World Test Championship, and this one as well. I just think we haven't played really well on the day. I thought we were a bit short in Adelaide, in the semifinal. We lost the first day in the World Test Championship, unfortunately.”

“We didn't bowl particularly well after Australia was three down there. And here we didn't bat well enough in the first. So, there's not one particular reason you can pin it down to. It's not that, I mean, I didn't feel at any stage going into this game that there were any nerves or the guys were intimidated by the game or they were concerned about the game.”

“They were looking forward to it; we were excited about the game. I thought there was energy and the mental space the boys were in leading into this particular game was spot-on and terrific. Just on the day we probably didn't execute, and Australia played better than us.”

Dravid’s reply means there is still something which isn’t clear yet on the query over India faltering in knockouts. But if one zooms into what went wrong for India in the Men’s ODI World Cup final, then two things emerge – a big knock missing from top three and lack of depth in the playing eleven.

In each of India’s ten victories, where they captured the imagination of fans, either of Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli or even both were amongst the runs. But in the final, though Rohit and Virat made contributions, there weren’t like the big knocks which they played in the matches before the title clash.

Rohit made 47 before mistiming his lofted shot and was caught very well by a back-pedalling Travis Head at cover, while Kohli scored 54 and chopped on to his stumps off captain Pat Cummins. The rest of India batters minus Rohit and Virat totalled only 139 runs.

In ODI cricket finals, Rohit has made 303 runs in 11 innings, including three fifties, at an average of 27.54, while Kohli has scored 208 runs in nine innings, making just one fifty, at an average of 26. Moreover, with Hardik Pandya’s exit due to a left ankle injury, there was a balance issue, which India tried to fix by bringing in Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammed Shami.

Though Shami shined to be the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, India’s tail began from number eight with the bat and left no room for a sixth bowling option as none of top six were dependable enough to eke out some quiet overs.

On the other hand, Australia used seven bowlers and their batting line-up was also long, thanks to packing themselves with utility all-rounders, plus the left-handed opener Head also capable of some off-spin bowling.

India’s previous World Cup triumphs in 1983 and 2011 had these two elements which propelled Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni to script epic triumphs. This 2023 World Cup campaign promised the dream to be turned into reality, till an all-familiar sinking feeling came back to thwart that hope.

India's glorious run in the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup will make for awesome viewing in the highlights package as well as in standalone reels and shorts on social media platforms. But it didn’t result in what was on everyone’s mind - another star on the crest of the jersey (and fulfilment of 3 ka dream anthem by kit sponsor Adidas) or a place in the history books as Men's ODI World Cup champions.

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