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Despite loss, India will continue to be an ODI powerhouse

Minutes after New Zealand scripted a sensational triumph over India in the World Cup semi-final at Manchester’s Old Trafford, the customary handshakes between the rival units occurred.

The victor’s camp muted its joy and the losers kept a lid on their emotions, it was a poignant moment in which mutual respect lingered. The special bit was when Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli met. They shook hands, hugged and the New Zealand skipper put an arm around his Indian counterpart’s shoulder. Words were exchanged and it was one man understanding the anguish of the other.

Later Williamson said: “There is obviously a huge amount of respect for India and I certainly hope that their fans are very much behind them and respect that the game of cricket can be a tough one on a number of occasions.”

But once it sunk in that India, one of the pre-tournament favourites had crashed, Twitter and the media space wavered between the sighs of support and the sounds of knives being sharpened. The first part was essential, but the second segment proved to be unedifying.

India had a phenomenal run at the World Cup, scripting seven wins while losing that one game to England besides encountering a wash-out in the league joust involving New Zealand.

Being a table-topper with 15 points was a validation of the team’s strengths. Resilience was evident too from the way the injuryenforced absence of Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar, was accepted. But it wasn’t as if there were no flaws. Just as the Black Caps were scripting an upset, a statistic popped on television - India’s top-order had contributed 69% of its runs and among the rest, the middle-order offered just 30 and the tail a forgettable one!

When the top order flourished, things were going extremely well and equally much hinged on the speedsters where Jasprit Bumrah (18 wickets) prospered. But once New Zealand dismissed Rohit Sharma, Kohli and K.L. Rahul India had a tough act to follow. The middle-order struggled and all that Ravindra Jadeja and M.S. Dhoni could do was to delay the inevitable loss. The one thing that was clear among the batsmen – of all nations – was that when the ball moves they have no idea of playing the swing or the movement and appeared totally unequipped with the technique.

However, this may not be an issue in ODIs as almost all the games, but for this World Cup are played in pitch that is batsmen paradise.

Questions have been raised about the alleged presence of six fielders outside the 30-yard circle against the norm of having only five at the time Dhoni got run out and whether it constituted a no-ball. But if that was the case isn’t a run out the only dismissal allowed from a no-ball? Then the whispers were about why did Dhoni come in at No. 7. Immediately the famous phrase comes to mind.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been.”

“I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.” ... It's only with hindsight we can see things for what they are.” And in a classic case of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t, there was heartburn over Dhoni’s relatively slow batting (50, 72b) when compared to Jadeja’s flaming effort (77, 59b). Yes, the former skipper’s strike-rate was sedate, but it fitted into the template of resuscitating a scorecard that had slumped to 92 for six in 30.3 overs while chasing New Zealand’s 239 for eight.

Overall, India was the stand-out squad in the league phase, but in the semi-final New Zealand proved to be the better outfit. New Zealand got the best of both days – is it an ODFI or TDI? Indian fans need to accept the result and move on. We all understand that Dhoni's finish-line is closer and the number four spot is still a work in progress. But this Indian team showed that they are more than semi-finalist and will continue to be a potent threat in ICC tournaments.

The contract of Patrick Farhart, the physiotherapist of the team, has ended with the end of India's campaign at the World Cup. He joined the set up in July 2015, and has been a familiar face since that time, rushing out to tend to players on the field. “Whilst my last day with the team did not turn out as I wanted it to, I would like to thank @BCCI for the opportunity to work with the team for the last 4 years. My best wishes to all of the players and support staff for the future” he tweeted.

The other support staff member who has chosen not to renew his contract is Shankar Basu, the fitness and conditions coach. Basu was instrumental in Virat Kohli turning his lifestyle around and becoming among the fittest athletes in the world, having first come into contact with the India captain during a stint with his IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore. It is learnt that both Farhart and Basu were offered fresh contracts but chose to
move on.

Chief selector MSK Prasad addressed various issues after announcing the squads for the West Indies tour. Asked on Dhoni’s future, “Retirement is purely individual. A legendary cricketer like MS Dhoni knows when to retire. What is the future course of action that is in the hands of the selection committee. I don’t think we need to discuss anything more on it” he said. Earlier the former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted out of India's impending tour of West Indies amid his retirement speculations.

An Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army, it has been learned that Dhoni will be spending the next two months with his regiment and hence will be unavailable for the Windies tour. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has approved MS Dhoni's request to train with a territorial army battalion of the parachute regiment for 2 months after the India cricketer approached the Indian Army with his request.

“When we pick any player and he does well, we feel so happy for him. Similarly, when somebody who goes out in this way, the selection committee also feels for it. But having said that, with regards to the decision taken, it has been completely devoid of any bias or any favouritism into why we have picked Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant or Mayank Agarwal also. That (Rayudu’s exclusion) doesn’t make the selection committee or me biased about any particular person. We know how emotional Rayudu is, we are also emotional. We as excricketers, also feel for him.”

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