As the dust settles on India’s World Cup campaign, the Men in Blue and their fans should look back on this scoreline with pride; it should serve as a reminder of the team’s ability to make a courageous comeback from their disastrous build-up to the tournament Down Under
Defending champions India are out of the World Cup. Heartbreaking? Yes. Could have played smarter? Yes again. Shameful, disgraceful? No and no.
Why? Because India put up a good fight against an opponent that had the best credentials in the World Cup, save fellow semi-finalists New Zealand and South Africa.
MS Dhoni and his band of boys have won the respect of millions of fans thanks to their spirited World Cup campaign. Pic/Getty Images
How many of us could visualise, after the disastrous tri-series in which India lost every encounter to England and Australia, playing a game for a place in the final of the World Cup? Before India played Afghanistan in their second and final World Cup warm-up game, Dhoni’s men had not won a game in 80 days. A bad tour of Australia can cause scars that don’t heal for years. Teams that have been at the receiving end of a shellacking there will vouch for this.
That the players could get up, take a good look at themselves in the mirror and beat teams like Pakistan and South Africa first up in the World Cup is a wonderful achievement in itself.
At the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday, Australia were simply too good, near invincible, while building a 328-run total. Losing four wickets for 51 runs at one stage notwithstanding, the Aussies resembled smart kids putting together a jigsaw puzzle in record time after Steve Smith’s century.
To paper over India’s cracks would be painting with artificial colours. Sure, India’s three pacers conceded a total of 215 runs, Virat Kohli was inexplicably adhesive (13 balls for one run) and Dhoni’s run out made him look like a rabbit caught in headlights after a run-a-ball 65, but these foibles are not rare in the ebb and flow of a cricket match. Dhoni getting lucky with the toss could have produced a different result.
One semi-final loss should not discredit India. Not after seven wins on the trot, an unprecedented Indian achievement.
The writer is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor