Team India head coach Ravi Shastri explained that the team needed Dhoni’s experience lower down the order which is why he was sent in after Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya.
The decision to send MS Dhoni at No.7 when chips were down in the first semi-final of the World Cup against New Zealand at Old Trafford earned the Indian team management a strong backlash. Former Indian cricketers like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were baffled by the decision to send the most experienced player in the Indian line-up down the order. Dhoni had come out to bat in the 23rd over with India reeling at 71/5 and added 116 runs for the seventh wicket with Ravindra Jadeja to almost turn the game in India’s favour.
Indian head coach Ravi Shastri though had his own defence ready when asked about the decision to send Dhoni lower down the order. Shastri has revealed that it was a team decision to hold back the veteran wicket-keeper batsman for the latter part of the game. Shastri explained that the team needed Dhoni’s experience lower down the order which was why he was sent in after Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya. According to him, they did not want Dhoni to go in early and lose his wicket in which case India’s chances would have been over by the half way mark.
“It was a team decision. Everyone was in with it and it was a simple decision, too. The last thing you wanted was Dhoni coming out to bat early and getting out that would have killed the chase,” Shastri was quoted as saying by the Indian Express, a day after India lost yet another World Cup semi-final.
“We needed his experience later. He is the greatest finisher of all times and it would have been criminal to not make use of him in that way. The whole team was clear on it,” Shastri added, before going on to praise MS Dhoni’s performance, insisting that the former Indian captain had a great chance of leading India to victory, if not for an unfortunate runout.
“And Rishabh Pant did look pretty secure when he got out to bat, even against (New Zealand fast bowler) Trent Boult, didn’t he? You could then say that if Pant had continued and not got out… but that’s sport. You grow up in quick time. He will learn, he already knows it. But I am happy that the team showed spunk. They didn’t give up even after losing Pant and Pandya. What a fightback that was,” he added, justifying the team’s choice to send Dhoni at No 7.
“He (Dhoni) was magnificent. The composure in the situation. And let me tell you, if not for that unfortunate run out, I think he had his calculations going inside his head. Which ball to hit, how much to keep for (James) Neesham’s last over. You could see his brain was ticking. He wanted to do it so desperately and it was clear on his face when he came back to the dressing room,” Shastri said.
Shastri boosts team’s morale after shock defeat
India fell short by 18 runs in the end, getting bowled out for 221 in 49.3 overs after a tremendous fightback thanks to Jadeja and Dhoni. In the end, it was the result that mattered as New Zealand advanced to their second successive final while India got knocked out in the semi-finals of the World Cup yet again after 2015. The 57-year-old however backed the team to bounce back after the loss which he admitted was a “tough pill to swallow” but felt that the Indian team was “tough” enough to take this defeat in their stride and continue their progress.
“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,” the coach was quoted further as saying.
Shastri, who was a member of the Indian team that had won the World Cup in England in 1983, however, acknowledged that India failed to get the service of a solid middle-order batsman and the injuries to Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar made things worse. India had to promote KL Rahul to the opening slot after Dhawan was ruled out while Vijay’s toe injury saw Rishabh Pant making up for his place in the middle order. Shastri said the middle-order problem was always giving India headaches and conceded that the team couldn’t nail it eventually.