Dhoni and Jadeja celebrate reaching a 100 partnership during the 2019 CWC first semi-final between NZ and India at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Oli Scarff/ AFP
Cricket-mad Indians tried on Thursday to come to terms with their shock World Cup exit, with the Times of India telling readers “The Sun will still rise tomorrow” and Ravindra Jadeja emerging as a new national hero.
The defeat to New Zealand in Wednesday’s semi-final came after a top-order batting collapse had left them teetering at 24-4.
Jadeja and veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni, renowned as one of the game’s great finishers, rekindled the hopes of the cricket-crazy nation with a fighting seventh-wicket century partnership but it wasn’t enough as India, cahsing 240 to win, fell 18 runs short.
“For a while it looked like he (Dhoni) would turn back the clock and script another great escape, but that was not to be,” wrote the Indian Express under the headline “The un-finisher.”
Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar said the target was straightforward but India had been too reliant on the top three in the batting order — Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and captain Virat Kohli — who each only scored one run.
“I am disappointed because we should have chased 240 without any doubt. It wasn’t a big total,” Tendulkar told India Today.
“But I feel that we can’t be all the time relying on Rohit to give a good start or Virat to come and make sure that a solid foundation is built,” he said.
“It’s not fair all the time to expect Dhoni to come and finish the game. He has done it time and again,” Tendulkar said, while also praising Kane Williamson’s “incredible” captaincy for the Black Caps.
Former spin bowler Harbhajan Singh tweeted that the result was “heart breaking.”
And former greats Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman said that Dhoni’s experience meant he should have batted higher in the order.
“Dhoni should have come ahead of (Hardyk) Pandya. It was a tactical blunder. Dhoni should have walked in ahead of Dinesh Karthik. The stage was set for Dhoni,” Laxman said.
Former captain Ganguly said that Dhoni would have had a calming effect had he come in sooner.
“India needed experience at that stage. If Dhoni was there when (Rishabh) Pant was batting, he would not have allowed Pant to play that shot against the breeze,” Ganguly said after the youngster holed out on the boundary to put India in further strife at 71-5.
“Dhoni should have batted up. You need that composure and not just his batting.”
Australia and India will be aiming to finish top of the World Cup league phase and so avoid facing hosts England in the semi-finals as they prepare for the final day of round-robin matches.
It was a superb display by the underdog Black Caps, who came into the match on the back of three straight defeats by Pakistan, Australia and England and only qualified for the semi-finals on net run-rate, while India topped the 10-team group stage.
The opening Cricket World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand will be played over two days after rain at Old Trafford prevented the match finishing as scheduled on Tuesday.
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