Indian cricket team’s sojourn in the ICC World Cup 2019 came to an end after a heartbreaking loss to New Zealand in the first semi-final at Manchester on July 9-10. Rain interrupted the match on its original day and it was completed on the reserve day, which saw New Zealand bowlers decimating the famed Indian batting line-up first thing in the morning. Overnight rain and overcast conditions presented the Kiwi fast bowlers just the right kind of help they needed to put the Indian batting under pressure which they did by removing the top three batsmen for the score of 5 runs inside the first five overs.
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli all returned back with the score of 1 run each; while Pandya, Pant made 30s, but it was the 116-run partnership between Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni ignited hopes of an India win, and they eventually fell short by a tiny margin. When Matt Henry was wreaking havoc with the white ball, removing both the openers quickly, Kohli was in discussion with MS Dhoni, head coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Sanjay Bangar, whether he should bat at no.4 instead of three.
Things would’ve been different
The thinking was that either Pandya or Pant could go at no.3 and play out a few overs to get the innings back on track. “Pant or Pandya could’ve walked in and just blocked the first few overs. Maybe the first 10 (overs) could’ve been kept as the target. Just block, see off those overs. Things would’ve been different,” said sources as reported by TOI.
However, Kohli went in at number three despite Trent Boult and Matt Henry swinging the ball in any way they wanted. It was just a matter of time when Boult trapped Kohli in front of the stumps and despite taking a review, the Indian captain was deemed LBW and the game was all but lost with his return. “Virat walked out. You never know how things would have panned out, had he stayed back,” sources added.
This question of why Kohli decided to bat at no.3 and not send in either Pant or Pandya to play out the difficult overs will continue to haunt the fans and experts for times to come, as this was probably the best shot India had at winning their third world title.