That’s Five Times

April 6, 2014: World T20 Final, Dhaka

India bat first against Sri Lanka, and are cruising after 14 overs, Kohli unbeaten on 54. Inexplicably, they implode, Yuvraj scraping together a miserable 21-ball 11.

They finish with 130. The final six overs yield just thirty-seven runs.

Sri Lanka chase the runs down, no trouble at all, with thirteen balls in hand.XX.jpgMarch 26, 2015: World Cup Semi-Final, Sydney

India lose a bad toss to Australia on a slow, sub-continent-ish surface. Dhoni’s absurd insistence on a fast bowling attack of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Shami finally comes home to roost: Australia run up 328.

India fight back with a 76-run opening stand between Dhawan and Rohit, but Kohli falls early, ushering a 4/32 collapse. Dhoni walks in at No. 6, 221 still needed to win, and just gives up at some point.

India subside to 233, losing by 95 runs.Australia v India: Semi Final - 2015 ICC Cricket World CupMarch 31, 2016: World T20 Semi-Final, Mumbai

India are put into bat first against the West Indies on a flat deck, which looks good for an IPL-style 200+ score.

Rohit and Rahane’s ponderous opening partnership takes valuable overs out of a game that’s crying out for a batting onslaught. Kohli tries his best to engineer one, but it never truly arrives. India, absurdly, finish just 2 wickets down for 192 in their 20 overs.

The Windies, target firmly in mind, press the accelerator at just the right time, and Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell just run away with the thing, plundering sixes at will. It comes down to 8 runs off the final over. Russell promptly smacks the bowler for a four and six for the win.

The bowler is Kohli, because India are out of ideas.XX.jpgJune 18, 2017: Champions Trophy Final, London

India win the toss and send Pakistan in to bat first. Instead of Umesh and Mohit, the bowling freeze hits Bumrah, Ashwin and Jadeja. Pakistan play without fear, and take the Indian bowling to the cleaners, ending up with 338.

India’s scant hopes of a win are blown out by Rohit, Kohli and Dhawan falling inside nine overs. Hardik Pandya from No. 7 does a cosmetic job on the margin of defeat with a brilliant, chanceless innings of 76, before being comically run out by Jadeja.

The tail folds, and India are cooked for rather less than half of Pakistan’s score, with a tick under 20 overs still to play.XX.jpgJuly 9-10, 2019: World Cup Semi-Final, Manchester

In a tournament dominated by teams batting first, New Zealand win the toss and bat, and dig themselves into a hole with some puzzling, ultra-cautious batting.

They’re 2/90 in the 28th over and sinking fast, but, either side of a rain interruption that takes the game to a second day, visibly reassess their chances and scramble to 239.

India’s chase seems like a formality before a ball is bowled; by ball nineteen, the top order is gone – again – with just five runs on the board.

Jadeja from No. 8 goes from villain to ‘hero’ with a brilliant, chanceless innings of 77, until falling to hitting pressure built up by Dhoni from the other end. Dhoni himself falls to a desperate run out, chasing an impossible rate.

The tail folds, again, and, having needed 32 to win with Jadeja and Dhoni still in, India are bowled out 18 runs short.XXConclusion

Five times in six years.

India’s next chance at a world title is going to be at the World T20 in Australia in the winter of 2020. By then, it’ll have been seven and a half years since Dhoni led India to the 2013 Champions Trophy. That’s an absolutely staggering amount of time, given the stranglehold this team has had over the white-ball game this decade.

It’s going to take a while to process, of course, but what stands about this loss most immediately is that it exhibits a familiar pattern of losing nerve, faltering tactics, and a complete desertion of cricketing smarts when it really, really counts.

I’m sure there’ll be enough and more effort expended to rapidly scrub this memory clean, so it’s important right now to acknowledge this defeat for what it is: the latest link in an ongoing pattern that has now played out over and over again with this lot, five times in a row.

And for a team that’s probably stocked with enough talent to send two or three competitive teams to a tournament like this World Cup, it’s a shame that, with the international game at its mercy, this Indian team keeps coming up short.