Birmingham, July 11Hope keeps people alive. It also plays horrible tricks. Right till late in the Indian innings, Virat Kohli kept hope. He thought Ravindra Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni would take India to the finish line. “Yes, at that stage, we all felt like in the changing room the game can be closed out, it can be done,” said Kohli.
That wasn’t a very realistic hope.India lost a semifinal match everyone believed they’d win.
Over the last one month, they played like champions against Australia and Pakistan, but they didn’t play like champions when it mattered most, in a knockout game against New Zealand.
But that’s sport — plans go awry. Professional batsmen who’ve been told to watch the ball all their lives, who’ve trained to watch the ball all their lives, forget to watch the ball.
That’s what happened to Brendon McCullum in the 2015 World Cup final against Australia. He forgot to watch the ball. Bowled. Soon he was back in the pavilion, laughing — because if he had started crying, he says “I’d still be crying”.
McCullum was laughing at the absurdity of it — the moment he’d dreamed of all his life had arrived, and he forgot to watch the ball!
That’s what hope and excitement does to the best of sportspersons.
Stroke of luck
That’s what happened to Kohli, too. He knew Trent Boult was going to angle the ball across his stumps, invite him to drive — with two men in the slips waiting for the catch. Yet, first-ball, Kohli went for the big drive. Luckily, he missed the ball completely.
Kohli knew that Boult would angle the ball across and bend it in; yet Kohli shuffled across the stumps and tried to play a high-risk cross-batted stroke to the leg-side. Missed, but the ball didn’t miss his pad. Gone, out LBW for 1, and out went India’s hopes. Kohli must evaluate deeply whether that stroke — effective on lifeless pitches in India — should have been attempted at 5/1, off only the sixth ball he faced. Kohli wanted to assert himself; but digging in and trying to play solid strokes with a straight bat would have been more effective.
And sending Dhoni in at No. 7? He can’t/doesn’t smash the ball, but he can hold one end — he was just the man needed in the middle at the fall of KL Rahul, at 5/3.
Plans do go awry — that’s where matches are won and lost. That’s where India lost.