World Cup 2023: Toxic game shatters hearts but Team India can hold heads high

10 successive wins. The most consistent team in the tournament. Almost everything working right on track. But, just one bad day and you are only the ‘Runners Up’ and not the Champions as you should have been. This Team India surely deserved better. Although, I am too heartbroken to write this article by recalling the 10 cherishing games — knowing what is going to come at the end — I will do so for my team. In this Blog, I will do the analysis of all the 11 games of India and some major takeaways.

World Cup 2023, IND v AUS: Virat Kohli, KL Rahul rescue India from 2 for 3 to secure stunning victory over Australia - India Today

Virat and Rahul played sublime knocks to rescue India after a horrific collapse against Australia (Photo: India Today)

October 8. Australia. Chennai

India opened its paced tournament at the slow-turning track of Chennai against the arch-rivals Australia. Sensing the wicket and having a balancing key in Pandya, the team went with three spinners — Jadeja, Ashwin and Kuldeep. Bumrah drew the first blood dismissing Mitchell Marsh on a duck. Warner and Smith tried to rebuild the innings but were dismissed by Kuldeep and Jadeja respectively. The latter was the most lethal grabbing 3 for just 28 runs. Kuldeep and Bumrah too grabbed two. Smith and Labuschagne were too slow in reconciling the innings and once they were gone, wickets kept falling at regular intervals, as the surface wasn’t easy for new batters. Eventually, Australia was dismissed at the score of 199 giving India a target of 200.

What initially seemed a cakewalk, turned out to be a difficult task as three big Indian wickets — Rohit, Kishan and Iyer — got out in quick succession (except Rohit other two got out on loose shots) leaving India at 2-3. Even Kohli, who came to the rescue, almost recreated a ‘2015 WC IND v AUS Semi-Final dismissal’ moment, when his pull attempt sent the ball up in the air. However, luck was on the right side as Marsh put it down. From there, Virat played very sensibly and completely anchored the chase. He was well supported by KL Rahul who played some solid shots. Virat ended up missing his ton after getting out on 85 and Rahul who was all set to make one, played the shot a little too well (you heard that right) and remained unbeaten at 97. India chased the total with six wickets in hand and that was the start of a memorable campaign.

Rohit Sharma breaks multiple records with superb century | CWC23

Rohit Sharma was at his vintage best against Afghanistan in Delhi (Photo: ICC)

October 11. Afghanistan. Delhi

Now, this was a game I witnessed live in the stadium and the experience was surreal. It was a memory that will stay with me forever. A stadium as poor as the one in Delhi looked beautiful with the WC decorations and the blue ocean. Afghanistan opted to bat and put forward a valiant effort. Scoring 272 against this line-up was not a joke (keeping in mind the AUS game). Bumrah was the pick of the bowlers who nabbed 4 and watching his action live is another luxury. Also, I got to witness two exciting catches from Shardul and Kuldeep (watch the highlights to know).

Coming to bat, it was a complete HITMAN show for the Men in Blue. What followed was a flurry of beautiful, elegant, ‘looking like a wow’ shots all across the ground. Completely in song, Rohit smashed the fastest 100 by an Indian in a WC (63 balls only to be broken a few weeks later). Afghan bowlers missed the trick by saving Rashid Khan for too long and using only the pacers — whom Rohit played with much ease. After Rohit’s dismissal at 131 (84), Virat Kohli took the charge and got the team home with a fiery fifty. It was another delight to watch him hit the winning shot. The overall experience of watching a WC match in the stadium was just impeccable further made memorable by some crazy people around me…HA HA. And I am really proud of being a small part of the historic campaign.

Also, I can’t end without giving a shoutout to the Afghan team, who played so well. Defeating three world Champions, and coming close to beating Australia needs some serious determination. They have reached a level when their wins no longer seem like an upset. Take a bow, guys! I hope this brings some respite to the Afghan people grappling under the Taliban.

Analysis: Pakistan still have plenty to fight for after India loss - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

The moment the game changed for Pakistan; the start of the collapse (Photo: Dawn)

October 14. Pakistan. Ahmedabad

The ultimate clash of the titans was placed at India’s “God’s own country”…the Narendra Modi stadium. Playing in the world’s largest stadium with over 95% of over 1 lakh fans backing India, was never going to be an easy atmosphere for Pakistan. Despite this, they started well with a 40+ run opening stand. As Siraj was being hit for consecutive boundaries, I started getting worried due to the current political atmosphere in the country. Well, the comments on social media did prove my fear was right. However, Siraj picking the first wicket and then dismissing the dangerous-looking Babar was a huge respite.

Just when it looked like this could be a competitive IND v PAK encounter after a long time, the Pak lineup collapsed from 155-2 to 191 all out. Bumrah, Siraj, Jadeja, Kuldeep and Pandya; all picked 2 and the former was the pick of them. Chasing this was never going to be a tough task for India. Rohit was again on song and straightaway took on the premium Pak bowlers hitting them out of the park. Gill — who finally returned after dengue — and Virat, were both dismissed while trying to be more aggressive. Rohit missed out on a consecutive ton and got out at 86. Iyer too slammed an unbeaten fifty and India was home with seven wickets in hand after just 30-odd overs.

Virat Kohli hits classy century as India brush aside Bangladesh

Virat made a fantastic unbeaten ton against Bangladesh (Photo: ICC)

October 19. Bangladesh. Pune

This was always going to be an easy affair for India, despite some upset results lately. Bangladesh got off to a good start with 93-run opening stand in just 14 odd overs. But once the partnership was broken, wickets kept falling at regular intervals and Bangladesh could only manage 256-8. Litton Das top-scored with 66 while Tanzid and Mahmudullah made 51 and 46 respectively. Bumrah, Siraj and Kuldeep nabbed 2 wickets each. However, the most moving moment was the match was Pandya injuring his ankle while stopping a straight on his own delivery. This was going to change India’s whole campaign.

India got off to a flying start with Rohit smashing 48 and Gill chipping in with a fifty. Virat guided the chase from thereon and was at 76 when India needed some 27-28 runs. It was then that his partner Rahul decided to block and let Virat reach a well-deserved ton. Although #Selfish did trend on social media, but it wasn’t justified. When India needed just 2 uns, Virat reached his 100 by smashing a six over mid-wicket and finished the game in style.

India vs New Zealand, World Cup 2023: Virat Kohli 95, Mohammed Shami 5 for 54 script sensational India win - India Today

Virat Kohli played a very fine innings anchoring India to another successful chase (Photo: India Today)

October 22. New Zealand. Dharamshala.

This was a clash between two unbeaten teams of the tournament. The experts called this one to be the TOUGHEST for the Indian side. Even I agreed with the opinion as this Blackcaps unit looked very balanced and adaptable and of course in red hot form. India won the toss and opted to field. Pandya’s absence compelled two changes in the team — Suryakumar at sixth and Shami replacing Shardul. The decision felt just fine as NZ was reduced to 19-2 after 8 overs. But, from there on, the breakout star Rachin Ravindra and the dangerous Daryl Mitchell stitched a record partnership. At one time, it seemed NZ would easily go past 330, but the comeback man Shami with his fifer breached through the Blackcaps unit by picking crucial wickets and bringing an end to Mitchell’s marathon innings of 130. Kuldeep also chipped in with two wickets as India restricted New Zealand to a below-par total of 273.

India was again off to a good start riding on Rohit’s 46(40). Virat Kohli took the responsibility of steering the Indian chase. Gill, Iyer and Rahul did get starts but couldn’t stay for long. After Surya’s disastrous runout, which left India at 191-5, the match hung in balance. But a determined Virat ensured no more hiccups until the match was under the grab. However, he missed a well-deserved ton when he tried to hit a big one at 95. But, Jadeja at the other end ensured that India went home with 4 wickets in hand and 2 overs to spare.

Recent Match Report - India vs England 29th Match 2023/24 |

Speedsters Shami and Bumrah ran through the English batting in Lucknow (Photo: ESPN Cricinfo)

October 29. England. Lucknow

Although the defending Champions were having a disastrous campaign, the venue of Lucknow made me extra confident about India’s win. England opting to bowl after winning the toss meant India was defending for the first time in the tournament. Everyone had an idea that the wicket would be tough for batting, but the fielding by the English players made runs even more difficult. After Gill departed at 9, Kohli too couldn’t sustain himself and played a loose shot registering a surprise duck. Iyer also failed to cash in on the opportunity. At 40-3, India seemed in deep trouble, but Rohit held one side very valiantly. Even on a wicket, as difficult as this, Rohit’s strike rate was 86 and he managed 10 fours and 3 sixes, so it tells volumes of his compact. He missed the ton and got out at 86.

Rahul (39) and Surya (49) also made valuable contributions as India could manage only 229-9 at the end of 50 overs. India would have liked 20 odd more runs, but the Indian bowlers were spot-on from the start against an out-of-form set of English batters. From 30-1, 30-2, 30-3, 52-5, the English batters could just never settle. The moment Root and Stokes, both were gone on duck, it was India’s game. Shami and Bumrah grabbed four and three wickets each and England was dismissed at 129 handing India a huge 100-run victory.

ICC World Cup 2023: Sri Lanka break 48-year-old unwanted record in India match | Mint

Indian bowling was at demonic best clobbering the Sri Lankan batting at 55 (Photo: Mint)

November 2. Sri Lanka. Mumbai

As one does on a typical Wankhede wicket, Sri Lanka opted to field. On a great delivery of Madhushanka, Rohit was dismissed on the second ball. But, from there on, there was hardly any respite for the Sri Lankan bowlers. Shubhman Gill and Virat Kohli went on a song. The former here was especially eye-pleasing with his shots. They were followed by Iyer, who was the most brutal of the three in hammering. But unfortunately, all three of them ended up missing their centuries. However, all these runs were enough to take India to a huge total of 357-8.

Although, everyone was anticipating India’s win, but hardly had anyone predicted a manner like this. In a shocker, it was a repeat of the Asia Cup final, as SL scorecard went from 0-1 to 3-4 to 14-5. People were literally confused between the runs and wickets columns. Ultimately, the whole team was bundled at a record 55 runs with Shami grabbing another fifer while Siraj took three wickets. The historic win of 302 runs was nothing less than an ‘IPC 302’ against the SL batting. Its impact was felt domestically too as the whole SL Cricket Board was dismissed.

Kohli's World Cup ton equals Tendulkar record as India crush South Africa | Reuters

Virat Kohli made his birthday even more special by scoring a delightful ton in Kolkata (Photo: Reuters)

November 5. South Africa. Kolkata

This game was indeed special as it fell on Virat King Kohli’s birthday in the famous Eden Gardens. Opting to bat, Rohit again took India for a flying start with his 40 (24). After Gill, couldn’t make a big one, Virat anchored the Indian innings along with Iyer, who played perhaps his most quality innings of the tournament in his 77 (87). At the end of the innings, Virat who had held the innings at one end, reached his milestone 49th 100. However, #Selfish trended on social media once again, despite his strike rate being 83 on a ‘not so easy’ wicket. Jadeja and Surya’s quickfire cameos took India to a strong total of 326-5 in 50 overs.

So far, South Africa had seemed like the best team of the tournament after India, except for that whisker against the Netherlands. But, on this track, they faltered much poorly than what even their critics had expected. This time it was Siraj who drew the first blood by removing in-form Quinton de Kock. Following this, there was a spin web encircling the Proteas. From 22-2, 40-5, the whole batting was wrapped up at 83 with the top score being 14. Jadeja grabbed a memorable fifer and Kuldeep and Shami grabbed 2 each. This victory ensured that India will enter the Semis unbeaten.

Iyer and Rahul centuries ease India to 160-run demolition of Netherlands | Cricket World Cup 2023 | The Guardian

Iyer and Rahul were on song against the Netherlands with smashing tons in Bengaluru (Photo: The Guardian)

November 12. Netherlands. Bengaluru

The Chinnaswamy stadium: Small ground, flat wicket, a batter’s paradise and bowler’s graveyard. Winning the toss, India came out to bat and went on a rampage. After fifties from Rohit, Gill and Virat; both Iyer and Rahul took the batting to the next level. While Iyer played a solid unbeaten 128 (94), Rahul created history by scoring a century off just 62 balls (the fastest by an Indian in WC). Riding on all these masterclasses, India posted a mammoth 411-4 in 50 overs.

There was no doubt that the target was unreachable for the Netherlands. One also has to commend the Dutch batters for their resilience, who stood their ground and stretched teh innings to 48 overs and to a respectable score of 250. There were also some light moments, as Virat, Rohit, Iyer and Gill rolled their arms and the former two even picked up a wicket each to their own surprise. India’s huge total meant another huge victory for the Men in Blue by 160 runs.

The Semi-Final clash

India’s semi-final was at the Wankhede stadium, against New Zealand, the very same team which stopped India’s caravan in 2019, so of course, it was a high-pressure game. Fortunately, the toss went in India’s favour and Rohit wisely elected to bat first. As a captain, he led by example and continued with an aggressive approach. It needs a commendable courage to take on the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee by making room and coming down the ground.

After Rohit’s dismissal at 47, Virat and Shubhman took the charge. Gill especially started taking the attacking route before suffering from cramps at the score of 79. After he went in, Iyer came out and appeared set from the start. He hit as many as 8 sixes in his second consecutive ton of the tournament. Rahul too made an unbeaten 39 off just 20 taking India to a mammoth 397/4.

Virat Kohli takes a bow in front of idol Sachin Tendulkar at Wankhede after 50th ODI century - Sportstar

Virat Kohli made the historic 50th ODI hundred and bowed down in front of his idol Sachin Tendulkar (Photo: The Hindu)

Fan's dream of Mohammed Shami taking 7 wickets in World Cup semifinal against New Zealand goes viral | Trending News - The Indian Express

Shami ensured the Indian victory by derailing Blackcaps batting through his historic 7-wicket haul (Photo: Al Jazeera)

Meanwhile, Virat Kohli who was anchoring the Indian innings completed his milestone 50th ODI 100 surpassing his own idol, the great Sachin Tendulkar. His gesture of bowing down to Tendulkar was so heartwarming and so were his words when he said, “He has always been someone I have looked up to…I can never be as good as him”. The beautiful sight on the ground made the day for all the cricket fans.

Coming to bat, NZ was under pressure from the start, chasing a huge total. As a result, Conway and dangerous Rachin fell early. But, the evergreen Williamson and in-form Mitchell took the ground with solid determination. The 181-run stand started building the heat in the Indian camps (Goti muh mein tha). But, Shami once again stepped up and brought India back into the game by picking 2 wickets in 3 balls including the key Williamson. Mitchell tried to stitch another partnership with Philipps, but the mounting asking rate was bound to ignite pressure which led to a series of wickets. Eventually, Blackcaps were dismissed at 327 leading to a roaring entry of Men in Blue in the finals. Shami was the star of the game, who carried the Indian bowling almost single-handedly with the historic 7-wicket haul.

The Final Frontier

The big day. The ultimate game for which you play and dream for your whole life as a sportsperson. Irrespective of how good or bad you have played in the tournament, all that matters is your performance on THIS day. Quite surprisingly, this was a used wicket at the Ahmedabad, and as time was to tell, two-faced too. Cummins won the toss and took a tactical and brave call to bowl first. However, Rohit said (if he was not bluffing) that he would have batted first, so India anyway got what it wanted.

India started in the regular fashion with Rohit taking on the Aussie bowlers early on. But, Gill mistimed one of his best shots, bringing Virat on the field just in the 5th over. After Virat smashed three consecutive boundaries off Starc, and Rohit dealt in biggies, India seemed very well racing away with the game. But, in the 10th over, after hitting 10 runs off 2 balls on Maxwell, Rohit decided to hit one more over mid-off, but mistimed it after which Travis Head grabbed a stunner. Iyer was dismissed in the very next over, bringing India to 81-3 suddenly. And the situation was indeed serious. But what was more catastrophic was what happened after that.

Pat Cummins Silences the Crowd With Virat Kohli's Wicket, Just Like He Said He Would - News18

The moment Cummins dismissed Kohli and took the game away from India (Photo: News18)

Virat and Rahul opted for the ‘extreme defensive’ mode as they knew there was not much batting after them. But, while Virat still maintained his strike rate at around 80 with regular singles, Rahul’s strike rate was revolving around 50 with way too many dots. I don’t even remember when was the last time I saw just 1 boundary being hit in 30-odd overs, that too in a goddamn final. Eventually, Cummins dismissed Virat at a well-made 54. Jadeja came out to bat to bring in the left-right combination into play.

But, the wicket had started getting drier and difficult to bat on. The two batters continued the ‘defensive shell’ India was in. Rahul was dismissed at 66 off 107 balls. Jadeja too couldn’t do much with the bat. Now, all eyes were on one man…Surya, who just had to unleash his 360 mode in the last 3 overs. But, unfortunately (you can feel for him), he wasn’t being able to hit the slower balls on the slow wicket. He eventually got out at 18 (28) leaving India crumbling at 226-9. Siraj and Kuldeep somehow pulled the total to 240 giving Australia the target of 241 to lift the World Cup.

World Cup Final 2023: Travis Head scores battling century against India

Travis Head played the innings of his life at the WC Final in Ahmedabad (Photo: Firstpost)

Both the camps knew that 240 was just not enough. And the only way out for India here was to take early wickets and a lot of it. Australia came out with their usual attacking approach smashing 15 runs in the first over itself. Shami drew the first blood making Warner nick one to Kohli. Marsh tried to go guns blazing, but he too was dismissed. After this, Bumrah caught the dangerous Steve Smith in front of the wicket (he wasn’t out, but didn’t review) reducing the Aussie score to 47-3 and igniting a sparkling ray of hope in the Indian camps.

However, from here on, nothing went in India’s favour. Even the good balls went past the bats and all close calls missed the wicket. Even the little dew started worsening India’s prospects. The pressure also seemed imminent on India, as Rahul who had a pretty good tournament, was not carrying the ball well enough and Shami, in desperation to get a breakthrough was bowling huge wides. The pressure on skipper Rohit too was visible as he couldn’t give the ball to Siraj for over 20 overs, because of a couple of poor outings for the pacer. Travis Head got set and played one of the knocks of his life. For the worst, even an ultra out-of-form Labuschagne looked resilient and held his ground. The two stitched a record 188-run partnership and crushed all the Indian hopes of lifting the trophy.

A heavy-hearted post mortem

Knowing how hard the defeat was, it is easy to put blame on individual players, but it will serve no purpose. Yes, Rohit did play that shot, but he has played like that throughout and it was his innings that at least gave a good powerplay to India. Yes, Rahul’s innings was slow, but maybe he was trying to stick for a full 50 overs. Surya will perhaps be the easiest to blame here, but one has to understand that the condition was not easy for a new batter, maybe a set batter could have changed the course.

But, the major culprits here are; the pitch and the brain whose idea it was. I am not someone who cries for the pitch like SENA batters in India. But, there have been reports claiming that the Indian side opted for an old ‘used’ wicket instead of a fresh one for the Finals. The idea, of course, was to trap Aussies on a slow wicket. But, the plan backfired and how heavily so. Now, it is not possible to reach the credibility of those reports, but there seems no other logic behind such a pathetic two-faced wicket for the finals. Also, it is difficult to find out, whose call it actually was, the BCCI or the team management. The decision couldn’t have been taken anyway, with management being kept in the dark. It also shows a very defensive and hawkish mindset of focusing on others’ weaknesses instead of backing your strengths. Whoever, the bloody culprit was, just ruined everything. Yes, a fresh wicket couldn’t have changed the game completely, but it would have presented a fair chance to both teams.

Take a bow Team India!

Irrespective of how disappointed and heartbroken I am feeling, there can be no second thoughts that this Indian Team is a champion side. They missed out on the trophy, but that doesn’t change the way they performed for 10 games. It hurts when you can’t breach the final frontier despite being such a strong side. I would not go into the ‘best team on paper’ theory, but yes this Indian team is a stronger side than the Aussies on any day. But, exceptions are bound to happen and unfortunately for us, it happened on the day of the final.

Regarding, the prospects of future tournaments, I kind of agreed when Ravi Shastri said “If India doesn’t win this time, they aren’t winning till the next 2-3 trophies”. The 2023 squad was a very balanced side with all the ammunition and firepower. Whether will the Men in Blue be able to accumulate a team like this in any of the upcoming World Cups is a thing only time will tell. But, as a cricket fan, I won’t be able to watch any shitty Paytm series. Maybe, only the Test series in South Africa can bring me back followed by the T20 WC. And regarding the Aussies, I just wish, this is the LAST time they have won anything in their life. Sports teaches you to be humble, but I really vow that this loss will be avenged one day, and very strongly so.


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