Conceding the fact that India lacked the presence of a strong middle order batsman, head coach Ravi Shastri pointed it out as one of the major reasons behind India’s ouster from the ICC World Cup 2019. Considered to be one of the favourites to be lift the cup, India were knocked out after losing to New Zealand by 18 runs in the first semi-final on Wednesday. India’s worst nightmares came true as the middle-order failed to cope with the pressure after Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli got out inside the first three overs, failing to chase down 240 for victory.
”In hindsight, yes, we did need a solid batsman out there in the middle order. But now, that’s something for the future. That’s a position that was always giving us problems, but we just couldn’t nail it. (K L) Rahul was there but then Shikhar Dhawan got injured. Then Vijay Shankar was there, and he got injured. We just couldn’t control it,” Shastri told Indian Express, accepting that the No.4 spot became one of decisive factors behind India’s World Cup exist.
India tried three different batsmen at that crucial position during the course of the tournament. KL Rahul started the tournament but he had to shift to the opening position after Shikhar Dhawan got injured. Vijay Shankar was then slotted in to bat at No. 4. His modest returns and an injury later on prompted India to use Rishabh Pant, who was making his World Cup debut. But none of them grabbed the spot by playing a noteworthy innings.
Responding the query whether Mayank Agarwal, who was drafted into the side in place of an injured Vijay Shankar, could’ve been tried at the opening position, allowing Rahul come back No. 4, Shastri said they would have done the same if there was another game in hand.
“Not really, because it got too tight. By the time Mayank came to join us, there wasn’t much time. If there was one more game, that is, if this semi-final was a game later, we would have definitely done it. He flew in, and Rahul had just hit a 60, and then a hundred.
If it wasn’t for Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli and a hundred each by Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, India might have found themselves in the same situation against New Zealand, a lot earlier.
Shastri, however, was not disappointed by the performance of his side at all. The head coach, who got a 45-day extension till the West Indies tour, also revealed what he told the Indian cricketers immediately after the loss against New Zealand in the semi-finals.
“Walk out with your heads held high. Be proud. Those 30 minutes can’t erase the fact that you guys have been the best team in the last couple of years. You guys know it. One tournament, one series — and that, too, 30 minutes of play can’t decide that. You guys have earned that respect. Of course, we are all hurt and disappointed but, in the end, be proud of what you have done for the last two years,” Shastri said.