Have India missed a trick by continuing with V…

Virat Kohli

A leader innovates, inspires and brings glory to his team. Every successful team that sport has produced has always had a good leader.

Battles are always won by a combination of strength and mind. And that little part played by the mind is exactly what the captain needs to set in motion.

Building a winning mindset, teaching the team to have faith in themselves and developing a healthy atmosphere within the dressing room are all within the ambit of what a captain needs to do. The rest of the job is to be done on the field.

India’s current captain across formats – Virat Kohli – has been exceptional in most of the points mentioned above. But what about that little part at the end? How has Kohli done when it comes to leading the team on the field?

As far as T20s are concerned, he hasn’t been that great. So have India erred by keeping Kohli as the captain for T20Is?

Workload management

Virat Kohli with Ravi Shastri

In the last few years Kohli has been on top of his game with the bat, achieving various milestones one after the other. But has playing too much cricket affected him in any way?

Kohli has a knack of taking the onus on his shoulders. Before the IPL 2019 season, there were various questions raised over his captaincy and RCB’s poor performance. And when the tournament started we could sense that Kohli’s game wasn’t as fluent as it has been all these years.

The pressure of leading RCB could well be the reason for that. He faced criticism from the fans and the media, and the captaincy did take a toll on his performance as he ended the IPL with just 464 runs in 14 matches. Those are decent numbers, but not by Kohli’s standards.

Teams like Australia and England have implemented the concept of split captaincy for years now. Currently, Tim Paine leads the Aussie Test side whereas Aaron Finch is the captain for the shorter formats. Similarly, Joe Root (Test) and Eoin Morgan (ODI) are England’s skippers for different formats. This has helped them reduce the pressure on one specific player.

Adopting a similar approach would definitely help India. If Kohli is relieved from captaincy duties in the shorter formats, it’ll reduce the mental weight that he is currently carrying. This, in turn, will help increase his international career span.

Kohli’s tactical errors

India v New Zealand – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Semi-Final

After India’s recent loss to New Zealand in the World Cup 2019 semifinal, some of Kohli’s decisions came under scrutiny. The biggest of those was the delay in MS Dhoni’s arrival at the crease.

Many believed that Dhoni’s defensive approach was the need of the hour after India lost 4 wickets with just 24 runs on the board. But captain Kohli missed a trick by not sending Dhoni upfront. That eventually cost India the match.

Another much talked about tactical blunder came in the recent IPL, when Mumbai Indians were chasing RCB’s 171 at the Wankhede and required 22 off 12 balls. Kohli had plenty of options to go to, with Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammad Siraj having overs left. But Kohli decided to hand the ball to Pawan Negi, a left-arm spinner.

Negi was now up against Hardik Pandya, a batsman who feeds on spinners. It turned out to be a huge blunder as Pandya smashed Negi and won the game for MI in the 19th over itself.

Kohli’s decision to hand the ball to Negi was likely influenced by Ashish Nehra, their bowling coach. But this is turn highlights Kohli’s lack of vision in reading the game even more, along with his inability to back his decisions.

Where’s the team-building approach?

Virat Kohli at a press conference

Be it a Test or a T20I, having faith in your players is the most basic requirement of a successful team. Good teams are built from a strong core. But when it comes to T20s, Kohli has failed to retain that core group of players.

Too many changes to the side is not always the answer to poor performances, something that Kohli the captain is yet to understand.

RCB made close to 20 changes in their playing XI throughout IPL 2019. Imagine being a new player in a side that keeps changing players. It creates too much insecurity among the players, especially in T20s where the game demands quick runs and quicker thinking.

Players in such a team invariably fail to deliver to their potential, which is one of the main reasons why RCB has repeatedly failed in its bid to win the trophy.

Does Rohit Sharma have a better track record as captain?

Is Rohit now a better limited overs captain than Kohli?

The appointment of Rohit Sharma as captain in 2013 worked wonders for Mumbai Indians. Since then, they have managed to win four titles to become the most successful team in IPL history. That also makes Rohit one of the best captains in T20 franchise tournaments.

Not just the IPL, but Rohit has also been impressive as a captain at the international level. In ODIs, he has led India in 10 matches and has won eight of them. He has also led India to 12 victories in 15 T20Is as captain.

Kohli as captain has 56 wins in 77 ODIs and 12 wins from 22 T20Is, which is still a good record. But Rohit has looked like the better captain of the two in shorter formats.

Rohit is an astute leader, is blessed with an analytical mind and is known for his planning and vision. He has shown immense maturity on the field and has maneuvered his players really well.

That is why many believe he is India’s best option going ahead in the shorter formats.

Preparation for T20 World Cup 2020 has to be the focus

ICC T20 World Cup trophy

In October 2020, Australia will host the 7th edition of the T20 World Cup. With just close to one year left for the mega event, the management has to take a call on deciding the team’s future in T20Is.

The World Test Championship starts in August this year, which makes this the most opportune moment to implement split captaincy in the Indian team. While Kohli can lead the Test side, a highly successful leader in Rohit could be given the opportunity to lead the nation in the limited-overs format, especially T20Is.

With India set to play close to 20 T20Is before the World Cup, they could have given the new captain a decent amount of time to get himself in. That makes me feel India may have missed out on a good opportunity by continuing with Kohli.

Since their Champions Trophy win in 2013, India have failed to get their hands on any ICC trophy. A change in T20I captaincy could well be their key to success.

World Cup 2023: Five players from 2019 who can…

The Indian cricket team at the World Cup.

The 12th edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup may have ended in disappointment for India, but there are lots of positives that one can take away from the long tournament.

India entered the World Cup as one of the pre-tournament favorites, and they rightly lived up to the hype for most parts of the tournament. As Virat Kohli mentioned, 45 minutes of bad cricket cost them the semi-final against New Zealand.

India played dominant cricket throughout the tourney, and even when the other side had their noses in front, the Indian bowlers brought the team back into the game. Except for a league game against England, and the knockout one against the Kiwis, India dominated their other opponents. Quite fittingly, those were the teams that made it to the finals.

The next ICC WC is set to happen in India in the year 2023. If history is to repeat itself then, as the host country, India should win it as the hosts have won the last three editions; but that is still too far into the future.

In this article, we will look at five players from the 2019 WC squad for India who might realistically still be around 2023, and potentially win it for the Men in Blue.

Honorable mentions

KL Rahul- (Age 31-2023)

KL Rahul.

KL Rahul has all the talent in the world but has so far not fulfilled his true potential. He had a decent ICC WC 2019, but we will have wait and see if he will be a regular feature in the team four years hence.

Kuldeep Yadav (Age 28-2023) and Yuzvendra Chahal (Age 33-2023)

Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

Indian team had invested a lot in these two wrist-spinners and despite a mixed World Cup, the duo have been sensational. The 2023 edition is set to happen in India, and India has no dearth of talent in terms of spinners. So it will interesting to see if these two can stick around till then.

Ravindra Jadeja (Age 34 -2023)

Ravindra Jadeja.

Ravindra Jadeja was a livewire on the field in the tournament even when he was not part of the playing XI and is possibly in the best form of his life.

He almost single-handedly won India the semi-final. If he is still around in 2023, it will be interesting to see how much he has maintained his fitness and attributes that make him a top cricketer right now.

#5 Jasprit Bumrah(Age 29-2023)

Jasprit Bumrah is one of the best death bowlers in the world.

Jasprit Bumrah has quickly risen to prominence to become India’s go-to man across all formats. His unique bowling action has paid rich dividends and along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he forms one of the most dreaded opening bowling pairs in the world. His slower balls and lethal yorkers can deceive even the best batsmen. Bumrah is the pillar of the Indian bowling attack right now and can be a key in India’s quest for the title.

His arrival saw India becoming one of the best bowling attacks, and he is one of the few players who can give the Indian Premier League the credit for their successes.

India is lucky to have a player of his ability in prime form and if he is injury-free, then he is a sure-shot to play in the 2023 WC.

#4 Rishabh Pant(Age 25-2023)

Rishabh Pant has a bright future ahead.

India’s new first-choice wicket-keeper batsman across formats will most likely be around for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Rishabh Pant has enough time to fill the big void set to be left by legendary Wicket Keeper MS Dhoni.

Pant was not in the initial 15-member squad for the World Cup, but an unfortunate injury to Shikhar Dhawan meant that the left-hander had to be drafted into the squad, and he was also part of the playing eleven in the latter half of the tournament.

He had good starts whenever he got a chance with the bat, but was not able to capitalize on them and couldn’t get past fifty even once in four outings. Even in the semi-final, he was looking good but failed to get a big score.

Four years is a long time, and he will be a much better keeper-batsman than he is right now and may become a vital cog in India’s batting line-up.

#3 Hardik Pandya (Age 29-2023)

Hardik Pandya in action for India.

Hardik Pandya can change the game on its head on any given day, but he has not been able to perform consistently for India. Pandya has been given a lot of chances as evident from the fact that he has played close to 100 matches across formats for India in just three years from his debut.

Hardik is the rare all-rounder that India has been looking for over the years, and will be a much-improved player than he already is by the time 2023 ICC World Cup arrives. His returns in the 2019 edition were decent but he could not do what Ben Stokes or a James Neesham did for their respective teams. Hardik took 10 wickets and scored just over 200 runs in nine outings.

But he has improved his batting a lot and is gradually becoming a good bowler which is a good sign for India, and if needs to be around till the next WC, he needs to overcome his tendency to injure his back.

#2 Rohit Sharma(36 years-2023)

Rohit Sharma, the ‘Hitman’.

At present, it seems Rohit Sharma can do no wrong with the bat; he is scoring runs at will. His performance in the recently-concluded World Cup was so good that many are already hailing him as one of the greatest one-day batsmen of all time.

When Shikhar Dhawan got injured, he took the responsibility in his hands and made sure the left-hander was never really missed till the semi-final. He was on a record-breaking spree, scoring 100s at will, starting from South Africa where he played an uncharacteristic innings in India’s opening game on a difficult pitch.

From there on, there was no stopping the Hitman as he scored as many as five centuries from India’s nine completed games which is quite staggering. By the time 2023 comes, he will be 36 years old so there is a great chance that he will be still around. With the tournament happening in India, he might just become an unstoppable force.

#1 Virat Kohli (Age 34-2023)

Virat Kohli.

One of the greatest limited-overs batsmen of this generation is one of the players who will definitely be a part of the next edition of ICC World Cup.

Virat Kohli, as a batsman has been in phenomenal form since eternity, and has been consistently scoring runs for fun against every opposition in any given condition. He would love to continue his dream run with the bat for a few more years.

For the first time, Kohli led the side in a World Cup, and he captained a bowling attack which is formidable, a batting line-up that is as good as the world’s best on its day, a good fielding unit to support, but which ultimately fell short at the second-last hurdle just like the 2015 edition in Australia. He will have time to get over this defeat and come back stronger in four years.

WI vs IND 2019: SWOT analysis of the Indian sq…

India set to play 3-match ODI series against West Indies

After the hectic schedule at the ICC World Cup 2019, the Indian team is set to go on a Caribbean tour which constitutes of 3 T20Is, 3 50-over matches and 2 test matches. The Men in Blue are scheduled to play the first One Day International match in Guyana and the next two ODI matches in Trinidad. 

The likes of Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Khaleel Ahmed, and Navdeep Saini have got opportunities thanks to their consistent performances for India A and in the domestic circuit. Shubman Gill, who won the Man of the Series in recently concluded India A vs West Indies A ODI series, might feel unlucky to have missed out from the squad.

The Indian squad for the One Day series of three matches is – Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jadhav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini. 

Here, we dissect and analyze the various facets of the selected squad.

#1 Strengths:

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli

The top-three comprising of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli has been the backbone of India’s batting line up since Champions Trophy 2013. Rohit Sharma, who was in the form of his life in the World Cup 2019, will hope to carry on the same way. His partner at the top of the order Shikhar Dhawan, who got injured after scoring a century against Australia in World Cup 2019, will wish to be back in the rhythm after a break.

Virat Kohli, the number one batsman in this format, failed to register any three-digit figure in the last eleven ODI matches despite crossing the 50-run mark five times. Kohli is arguably the best batsman of this generation and will wish to break this streak and hit his 8th hundred against the ‘Men in Maroon’. 

The spin trio consisting of Chahal, Kuldeep and Jadeja can also be considered as one of India’s strength thanks to their record against the same opposition specifically both the left-arm spinners. Jadeja, Kuldeep, and Chahal have 36, 18 and 7 scalps to their name in 23, 10 and 3 matches respectively.

#2 Weakness:

Mohammad Shami

West Indies who are currently placed at the ninth position in the ICC ODI rankings won a bilateral series against India for the last time back in 2006. India, though, being the second-best ODI side in the world can not afford to consider Jason Holder’s men as a weak side at their home. West Indies gave a very tough fight to England, the best ODI side and successfully drew the series by 2-2 at their home.

None of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, or Khaleel Ahmed are reliable options in the slog overs. Navdeep Saini, the young speedster, was great for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League in the death overs. But, can he replicate that or even better it when he dons Blue jersey? Bhuvneshwar and Shami are pretty good with the new ball but they are also expensive in the death overs at times. With Hardik Pandya, the hard-hitting batsman being rested, Kohli’s army will also be worried about the finishing touch in the slog overs.

#3 Opportunities

Rishabh Pant

The inexperienced lads like Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Khaleel Ahmed have appeared in less than ten One Day Internationals while Saini is yet to make his debut for the senior team. This series is an excellent opportunity for the above-mentioned players. Manish Pandey who has played only 23 ODIs so far has recieved another chance to cement his spot in the middle-order. 

The skipper of ‘India A’ Manish Pandey was the only batsman to achieve the three-digit figure in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies A. The 29-year-old was also in good form in IPL 2019 in which he averaged exactly 43 with three half-centuries under his belt. Mumbai-born batsman Iyer too had a good time against ‘West Indies A’ accumulating 187 runs with an average of more than 62 in 4 matches. 

Topping the wicket charts in the same series were Khaleel and Saini. The young pacers picked up nine and eight wickets respectively.

#4 Threats:

Sheldon Cottrell

Since the World Cup 2015, India has dominated against West Indies with a win-loss ratio of exactly 4 in 12 One Day International matches. Also, India won 3-1 in a bilateral series when they last played against two-time World Champions away from home.

There are not many threats for the Indian team against West Indies even in the latter’s backyard. However, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer stunned Kohli’s men with their performances in the last bilateral series between the two. Hope, Hetmyer and Pooran are good players of spin and can tackle India’s spin attack well, considering the fact that Chahal and Kuldeep have not been at their best recently. 

Whilst this series is a good opportunity for the middle order batsmen like Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, and Rishabh Pant, India’s top order must play cautiously against Sheldon Cottrell. The left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell was excellent with the new ball in World Cup 2019 and can also trouble India’s top order. 

Why MS Dhoni shouldn’t retire just yet

MS Dhoni

After India’s shock exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, many fans have been speculating whether we will ever see Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Indian colors again.

Sent in to bat at number seven in India’s crucial tie against New Zealand, Dhoni tried his level best to get India past the finishing line and set up a historic final at Lord’s. Alas, a spectacular run out from Martin Guptill sealed Dhoni’s fate and that of India, sending the visitors back home without the coveted trophy. 

The upset led to scathing criticism of the team management and the captain. But one decision, in particular, left many pundits dumbfounded. Why was Dhoni sent in to bat so late in the innings, especially considering he is known to take time before settling into his innings these days?

What made the decision even more painful was that this was perhaps Dhoni’s swansong, the last major ICC tournament he would play before calling time on one of the most glittering careers in Indian cricket history. His wicket promoted speculation that perhaps this was his last innings, and it was poetic in a sense that he finished on a run out when his career started with one as well.

But champions do not accept destiny; they write and rewrite it. And Dhoni has done enough to ensure that he leaves the game with his head held high and on his terms. He deserves to have one last run at World Cup glory in the ICC World T20 in Australia next year, which should serve as his swansong from the game.

India still need Dhoni and his batting prowess at number four. After Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh lost favor with the selectors, many players have been tried at that position and they have all failed to do justice to it. That has put immense pressure on the top three – Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in particular – to score the bulk of the runs for the side.

India is too dependent on Kohli and Rohit right now

New Zealand exposed this weakness in the semi-final as they sent the top order packing for just five runs, leaving the lower order and Dhoni with an almost impossible task. Even then Mahi managed to get India close to the finishing line; had it not been for an unbelievable run out, perhaps India would have been the team that lifted the Cup on July 14. 

It seems that the team is stuck in a similar situation that they found themselves in the ‘90s. When Sachin Tendulkar got out, television screens all over the country were switched off because not many fans believed that the lower order could come good.

With the arrival of Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the situation began to change, as these players shouldered the burden of batting along with Tendulkar. 

Sachin Tendulkar – the man who made people switch off their TV when he got out

Right now, due to the departures of several experienced players, India’s middle-order is a weakness that opposition teams know they can exploit. In such a situation, jettisoning Dhoni off so early might lead to more failure. Instead, he should be encouraged to play his role in revamping India’s batting line-up so that it resembles something similar to the early 2000s.

Moreover, a cricketer like Dhoni deserves a proper sendoff. He has probably done more for Indian cricket than any player before him, and it would be a shame if his fate were decided by anyone but himself.

An intelligent man, Dhoni will never allow himself to become a burden on the Indian team and will ensure that he leaves the side on a positive note. His fans would be hoping that happens in Australia, with him holding the World T20 trophy aloft with his teammates.

Rahul Dravid: The silent warrior who guarded t…

Dravid was blessed with supreme will power and tenacity that few could match in the sport.

The sweat was dripping from his forehead. His eyes were focused fiercely on the incoming ball. The head was steady, the weight was transferred onto the front foot, and he met the ball right under his eyes. Rahul Dravid was used to doing this for India for a staggering 16 years. He was the silent warrior, who defiantly guarded the fortress of Indian cricket.

He was used to building an edifice, brick by brick with the concentration of a monk. He did not possess the aura of Tendulkar, nor the wizardry of Laxman. But, he was blessed with supreme will power and tenacity that few could match in Sport.

It is indeed a pity that Dravid played out his entire career under the giant shadow cast by Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid scored a magnificent 153 in an ODI against New Zealand in 1999, but it was forgotten in hindsight because of the euphoria that surrounded the 186* that Tendulkar scored in the same game. He scored 461 runs in the 1999 World Cup, but that too was lost in the outpouring of emotion in favour of Tendulkar, as the master scored a scintillating hundred just days after losing his father.

But more than anything else, Dravid was a man who always put the team before himself. An opener is injured? No problem. Dravid would step up. The team needs a batsman who should also double up as a wicket keeper? Again, Dravid would step up. He would be asked to bat at No. 3 in a match, then at No.6 in the next. Still, he obliged patiently, without even a frown. 

During the course of his illustrious career, he scored 13,288 runs from 164 Test matches at an average of 52.31. His overseas average of 53.03 was higher than his average of 51.36 in more familiar conditions at home, which shows that Dravid was a man who would step up when the going got tough.

His magnificent 233 in Adelaide in 2003 helped India to win a Test match in Australia after more than two decades. His 270 in Rawalpindi paved the way for India to register their first Test series win on Pakistan soil.

Dravid retired from the game in 2012, at the age of 39. Dressed impeccably in a suit and a tie, he gave a small press conference, posed for a few obligatory photographs, and he was gone. No farewell Test, no guard of honor, no victory laps around the ground. He was used to being in the background throughout his career, and he left the game without much fanfare.

Even after his retirement, he has been tirelessly training the next generation of Indian cricketers. Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer are all products of Dravid’s able guidance as a mentor. One can see Dravid toil under the sun, sweating it out with the next gen Indian hopefuls. This is his way of giving back to the game that has given him so much in life.

Dravid’s career is indeed a wonderful testament that hard work and determination can take a person to great heights in life, that nice guys too, can finish at the top. Rahul Dravid is indeed a role model to be treasured and respected. For, men like Dravid can seldom be found in the world of sports.

World Cup 2019 Review: Rating the performance …

India’s squad for World Cup 2019

India entered the World Cup 2019 as one of the heavy favorites. They dominated the league stage by winning seven of their nine games; with their match against New Zealand washed out, India were the only team to lose just a single game in the league stage.

They started their semi-final game on a good note by restricting New Zealand to a modest score of 239. However, the New Zealand bowlers fought back strongly in the second innings by triggering a colossal batting collapse. Despite a brave knock from Ravindra Jadeja, the Kiwis won the match by 18 runs.

With the World Cup now over, let us review the performances of the Indian players in the premier tournament.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda.

Mayank Agarwal – N/A

Mayank Agarwal

Mayank Agarwal came into the squad as a replacement for the injured Vijay Shankar. Since Agarwal joined the team in the final phase of the tournament, he didn’t get to play a single game.

Shikhar Dhawan – N/A

Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan’s World Cup 2019 started on a bitter note as he managed to score only eight runs against South Africa. However, he bounced back strongly in the next game by scoring a century against Australia.

In the process, he fractured his left thumb and failed to recover before the end of the tournament. As a result, his World Cup campaign came to a premature end.   

Dinesh Karthik – (1/10)

Dinesh Karthik

When India ran out of patience with Kedar Jadhav, they replaced him with Dinesh Karthik.

Karthik made his World Cup debut against Bangladesh and scored only eight runs. Though he did not get the chance to bat in the Sri Lanka game, a perfect opportunity was laid out for him in the semi-final. However, a stunner from James Neesham ended his World Cup campaign.

Overall, it can be said that Karthik failed miserably in the World Cup.

Kedar Jadhav – (2/10)

Kedar Jadhav

Though Kedar Jadhav had a poor IPL 2019 campaign, he was expected to perform well in the World Cup. However, his bad form continued in the mega event too.

In five innings, he managed to score only 80 runs out of which 52 came in a single innings against Afghanistan.

Since the main bowlers performed well throughout the tournament, Kohli rarely required Jadhav’s bowling services. As a result, he lost his place in the playing XI towards the end of the league stage.

Vijay Shankar – (3/10)

Vijay Shankar

Vijay Shankar’s controversial inclusion in the World Cup squad raised several eyebrows before the start of the event. As it turned out, the doubts were justified.

In three matches, Shankar managed to score only 58 runs. Barring his two wickets against Pakistan, he failed to do any justice to his inclusion in the squad.

In the end, a toe injury ruled him out of the World Cup.

Kuldeep Yadav – (4/10)

Kuldeep Yadav

Just like Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav also had a disappointing IPL 2019 campaign, and was expected to bounce back strongly in the World Cup. However, Kuldeep disappointed everyone as he took only six wickets in his seven games.

Apart from an excellent delivery to dismiss Babar Azam, Kuldeep rarely troubled the batsmen in the tournament. He even lost his place in the playing XI towards the end of the league stage.

Rishabh Pant – (6/10)

Rishabh Pant

Even though Rishabh Pant missed out in the original World Cup squad, he came into the team as a replacement player. Since KL Rahul opened the batting, Pant was given a chance to bat at No. 4.

In four matches, Pant scored 116 runs with a high score of 48. As in the IPL 2019, he threw away his wicket regularly by playing reckless shots at wrong junctures.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar – (7/10)

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a moderate IPL 2019 campaign before the World Cup. Still, he was included in the playing XI ahead of the in-form Mohammad Shami in the premier tournament – before he picked up a minor injury mid-way through.

Even though Bhuvneshwar’s inclusion in the semi-final raised several eyebrows, he managed to take three wickets. Overall, he played six games and claimed 10 scalps. However, he failed to pick quick wickets regularly at the start of the innings.

MS Dhoni – (7/10)

MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni was expected to carry his IPL 2019 form into the World Cup. However, the former Indian skipper failed to live up to the expectations.

In his eight innings, Dhoni managed to score only 273 runs with two half-centuries. His innings against England in one of the league matches incited sharp criticism towards his batting approach.

Dhoni was expected to bounce back in the semi-final. However, he came out to bat very late, at No. 7, and failed to finish the run chase.

KL Rahul – (7/10)

KL Rahul

KL Rahul was included in the World Cup squad as a reserve opener. However, he was slotted to No. 4 in the first few games of the tournament.

When Dhawan got injured, Rahul moved up the order as an opener. In nine games, he scored 361 runs with one century and two half-centuries.

His slow strike-rate was a concern for the team throughout the tournament.

Yuzvendra Chahal – (7/10)

Yuzvendra Chahal

Yuzvendra Chahal had an average World Cup 2019 campaign unlike his bowling partner Kuldeep.

Chahal started the tournament with a 4-wicket haul against South Africa. He continued his good form and managed to claim at least one wicket in six of his eight games. Overall, he took 12 wickets in his eight games.

Hardik Pandya – (8/10)

Hardik Pandya

There were massive expectations from Hardik Pandya before the start of the World Cup. He lived up to the expectations to an extent, with consistent all-round performances throughout the tournament.

In nine innings, Pandya scored 226 runs at a tremendous strike rate of 112.43. With the ball, he claimed 10 wickets in nine matches.

Overall, it is fair to say he had a decent World Cup 2019 campaign.

Mohammed Shami – (8.5/10)

Mohammed Shami

With Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the squad, Mohammed Shami had to wait for his chance in the playing XI. When he replaced the injured Bhuvneshwar, his scintillating performances started to raise several questions over his late inclusion.

Shami managed to take a record tally of 14 wickets in just four games. However, he was once again strangely excluded from the playing XI in the semi-final against New Zealand. 

Virat Kohli – (8.5/10)

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli was expected to lead from the front in the World Cup 2019. Even though he scored only 18 runs in his first outing, he registered five consecutive half-centuries in his next five games.

Overall, Kohli scored 443 runs in his nine matches with five half-centuries. Inability to convert the starts into big scores and a failure in the semi-final were the only negative points for the Indian skipper.

Ravindra Jadeja – (9/10)

Ravindra Jadeja

Since India included two wrist-spinners in the playing XI for most of the league matches, Ravindra Jadeja was forced to wait for his chance. He got his opportunity only during the last league match against Sri Lanka.

Jadeja claimed the wicket of Kusal Mendis and bowled economically. Hence, he retained his place for the semi-final clash against New Zealand.

After a batting collapse in the knockout match, Jadeja produced one of the best knocks of the tournament. And even though he played only two matches, he saved more than 40 runs for the Indian team with his excellent fielding as a substitute.

Jasprit Bumrah – (9.5/10)

Jasprit Bumrah

Jasprit Bumrah had a dream debut World Cup. In nine matches, he claimed 18 wickets and finished fifth in the overall wicket-takers list. He was even included in the ICC’s official Team of the Tournament.

Whenever India required breakthroughs Kohli threw the ball to Bumrah, and Bumrah rarely disappointed. Despite his stellar performances with the ball though, India failed to reach the final.

Rohit Sharma – (9.5/10)

Rohit Sharma

Just like Bumrah, Rohit Sharma also had an excellent World Cup campaign. He even overshadowed the remarkable ‘Fab 4’ (Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root) with his exceptional batting performances throughout the tournament.

In nine matches, Rohit registered a record 648 runs with five centuries and one half-century. His tally of five centuries is the most by any batsman in a single edition of the World Cup.

Rohit ended as the highest run-getter of World Cup 2019 and fell just short of winning the ‘Player of the Series’ award. Barring a blip in the semi-final, he had an absolutely stellar World Cup campaign.

World Cup 2019: The fault in New Zealand’s sta…

New Zealand v England – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Final

Exquisite! Exciting! Incredible! Riveting! Scintillating! Sensational!

Throw in all the adjectives you want, analogize everything you witnessed to a roller coaster ride at Six Flags or a Steven Spielberg thriller. Eat your heart out, Game of Thrones, Red Wedding episode; this match had a more dramatic ending, for real hearts were wounded over the fictional ones that were stabbed.

No seriously, throw in every word that you can find, because that’s what these 22 individuals did in some capacity or the other – they threw the kitchen sink, every weapon in their armory and every arrow in their quiver. And yes, there was an individual named Jofra Archer who fired his own arrows in the end, but that’s beside the point.

But as the late Trinidadian writer C.L.R James said, “What do they know of cricket, that only cricket knows”? And ergo, what do we know of the finals, that only the finalists know?We saw it, but can we truly empathize with the ecstasy and agony in a single frame, if we weren’t in one of the squads?

It made sense that a victor would be crowned, but it made little sense how. England won by zero runs and New Zealand lost by zero runs – not once, but twice. So England didn’t win it and New Zealand didn’t lose it, yet the World Cup, the crown jewel of London for the day went to England.

The post-mortem results are plenty, and we can start with the obvious the bat of god. Ben Stokes, who wielded the willow so well, inadvertently stuck the same wood out too much, and connected with the ball (when he shouldn’t have). The ball (as if there were English Angels in the Outfield) raced to the boundary, and the umpire had no choice but to signal four.

If only it had stayed four, or even five. But the umpire signaled six (four + two = ?). It was an egregious sin given the high stakes of the match; a closer inspection revealed that it was indeed an error of judgement to award England six instead of five runs.

But was that the only error? The umpire did strike back a few times – Ross Taylor given out when he wasn’t, and Jason Roy given not out, when he could have been. Were the runs won and lost there?

It couldn’t have been a case of bad karma, because New Zealand are the quintessential good boys of cricket. They’re everyone’s second favorite team. Surely the fate gods wouldn’t deal them a cruel blow.

But the stars present on the New Zealand flag didn’t align for them in the sky. How cruel was it, you ask? Why even Trent Boult, who was ever so impressive in the tournament, took a brilliant catch of Ben Stokes in the deep, only to find, gulp, that he had stepped on the rope – when he could have tossed the ball sooner to the ever-agile Martin Guptill standing right beside him.

That was the first of two cruel six runs for Stokes in the last over. Oh dear, did I just mention Guptill?

If the changing tides of luck and fate needed to be epitomized, Guptill’s role in the last two matches of the World Cup would fit the bill perfectly. On another day, Guptill’s brilliant throw would have hit the stumps and won his team the match – like it did to dismiss MS Dhoni in the semifinal. But in the final, his throw ricocheted off Stokes’ bat, and I can’t bear to write what happened again.

If Guptill won the semi-final for New Zealand by millimeters, he lost the final by a few centimeters – when he was batting. As he scampered back for the second run in the Super Over he fell short of the crease, and New Zealand could only tie the match.

Yes, New Zealand tied, reiterating that England didn’t win it, and New Zealand didn’t lose it. But there was still disbelief in both camps. One couldn’t believe they won it, and the other couldn’t believe they had lost it.

The ICC’s rule of declaring England the victors on the basis of most boundaries scored, has left the entire cricketing world with more salt than they can handle. Some of the salt was already thrown into New Zealand’s fresh wound, but you wouldn’t know it when Kane Williamson smiled in the press conference, epitomizing grace and sportsmanship.

The arbitrary rule of the ICC was such that if wickets were a measure over boundaries, the World Cup would be going to the antipodes.

There is a profound overtone here. The fact that the ICC couldn’t ascertain a clear winner and had to resort to something as arbitrary as boundaries, perhaps shows how the sport is still lacking in some foundations. Granted, the ICC is far from FIFA and football, which is more concrete in rules and where more parties have a stake. But there have still been quite a few rule changes in recent times; why couldn’t this rule have been changed too?

In the last decade or so, we have a seen a new format emerge in cricket, powerplays come in (rules changed on that), super subs go out and so too bowl outs. But the Super Over came in, and ultimately decided a final – while also not deciding it.

For my American brother-in-law, and American friends watching the match with me, I had to describe the rapid pendulum movements of the match in a football (soccer for your American tongue) context. England and New Zealand ended with a scorecard reading 4-4 at the end of 90 minutes. Throughout the game back and forth goals were scored, touch and go penalty calls awarded to England and taken away from New Zealand.

The archetypal edge-of-the-seat match, with momentum swinging rapidly. Two of those goals on either side came in the closing seconds of extra time. There were ‘they’ve got it, no they’ve lost it, no they’ve got it again’ moments.

Then it went to penalty shoot outs, and once again, the momentum kept swinging with hits and heroic saves; it finished 3-3 after five shots and there was still no clear winner.

So then we moved to sudden death, and after three more shots each, there was still no clear winner. England were awarded the cup on an arbitrary rule which was akin to something like they had more shots on target.

As Greg Baum rightly wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “great sports contests should be won by what happens next, not last.” There was barely a hair separating both teams, yet many remained flummoxed as to why the spoils weren’t shared.

Simon Jenkins of The Guardian believes the right result would have been a tie, but said it wasn’t so because “human nature hates a balance. It craves a victor and a vanquished. The sporting solution would be for both captains to admit the fact and shake hands. But the money, the chauvinism, the howls from the gallery, were more powerful.“

Speaking of powerful, I could only imagine how the megalomaniac-filled BCCI would have reacted had India been on the receiving end of this. A rematch perhaps? A letter to the ICC to boycott the ECB and a letter the Ministry of External Affairs? No, go higher – the Prime Minister’s Office would have been asked to cut off all ties with the United Kingdom.

Hyperbole aside, this event accentuates just how sporting Kane Williamson and his entire ‘high flying Kiwis’ have truly been.

So if England didn’t win and New Zealand didn’t lose, did cricket really win? It did entertain, but did it win if it left people feeling that gross injustice had been done? Did it win if it made New Zealand feel like they were dealt the worst kind of injustice imaginable? 

But cricket is unassumingly beautiful, above other cash-rich tournaments that serve the coffers of a few. I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate England on their maiden World Cup win, in their fourth final since 1979. For a country that invented the sport as early as the Saxon-Norman Times circa 16th century, this was no doubt a long time coming; 44 years to be precise.

Last year in Russia, the English fans regurgitated the "It’s Coming Home” song throughout the FIFA World Cup as England marched to the semi-final, hoping for a 1966 encore. How appropriate then that the country that invented another sport, won the World Cup in their own backyard and at the proverbial home of cricket.

Like Wembley in 1966, like Lord’s in 2019, the Barmy Army traveled the world in search for glory, only to find it at home.

For the paparazzi in the United Kingdom, the win provided a break from breaking ties with the European Union (EU). But since immigration is such a contentious issue the world over, the press would do well to remind certain policy makers that the English team was led by an Irish-born captain (Eoin Morgan), and a South African-born fielder (Jason Roy) effected the final throw to win the cup.

They are also indebted to a Barbados-born bowler (Jofra Archer), who bowled the last over. And the biggest irony of all? It was the New Zealand born Ben Stokes who won the match for England. Also in the mix were British Pakistanis – Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali – who played vital roles in the campaign.

I want to end with two images that stood out for me. The first was England’s Chris Woakes consoling a dejected Martin Guptill and Jimmy Neesham.

Martin Guptill being consoled by Jimmy Neesham and Chris Woakes

This image will go down for posterity’s sake – the same way the picture of Grant Elliot lifting Dale Steyn after the semi-finals in 2015 did, the same way the picture of Allan Donald being left stranded halfway down the Edgbaston pitch with the late Hansie Cronje having his arms on his hips in 1999 did, and the same way the picture of Andrew Flintoff consoling a despondent Brett Lee after the second Ashes test of 2005 did.

The biggest cricket match on the world stage was finally decided by the smallest of margins in Guptill’s run out. A call to Kipling once again – let’s treat triumph and disaster as the same imposters. It was certainly one winner, but two champions.

The second image circulated is of this cherubic 11-year-old boy, born in Christchurch, seen cheering for the Auckland Warriors in his favorite sport, rugby. Had he been told then that in 16 years’ time he would make it big for his country on the greatest stage of all, he would have assumed it would be playing for the All Blacks in rugby.

The 11-year-old Ben Stokes

Perhaps if rugby coach Gerard Stokes hadn’t moved with his family to the UK in 2003, Ben Stokes could have been the pride of New Zealand and not its nemesis last Sunday. But life and fate had different plans for Ben, for England and for New Zealand in the years to come.

It may be best to sum it up by saying that perhaps, just perhaps, the fault was in New Zealand’s stars. How else could anyone explain it all?