Cricket World Cup 2019

Heads held high in painful loss

India captain Virat Kohli is upset after losing his wicket for one during the World Cup semi-final clash against New Zealand on Wednesday. The two-time world champions were stunned by the Black Caps, losing by 18 runs. PHOTO: REUTERS
India captain Virat Kohli is upset after losing his wicket for one during the World Cup semi-final clash against New Zealand on Wednesday. The two-time world champions were stunned by the Black Caps, losing by 18 runs. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian team praised for fighting spirit in their cricket-mad nation after stunning loss to NZ

MUMBAI • Indian cricket fans and former players were feeling pain rather than anger yesterday, as they tried to come to terms with their team's shock World Cup semi-final 18-run defeat by New Zealand.

The sport is like a religion in India, where players can enjoy god-like status when they win but see their effigies burnt and houses pelted with stones when they lose.

While Virat Kohli's men had been favourites to go all the way to the World Cup final, their exit did not spark a furious response for fans back home, who had been captivated by their run to the last four after topping the group standings.

Their efforts were instead lauded on social media, with the team being praised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"A disappointing result, but good to see #TeamIndia's fighting spirit till the very end," he tweeted.

"India batted, bowled, fielded well throughout the tournament, of which we are very proud.

"Wins and losses are a part of life. Best wishes to the team for their future endeavours."

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME

India batted, bowled, fielded well throughout the tournament, of which we are very proud. Wins and losses are a part of life.

MR NARENDRA MODI, Indian Prime Minister, on the efforts showed by the team.

That sentiment was mirrored by many back home too, with the disappointment at the failure to add to their two World Cup titles masked by Ravindra Jadeja's display in just his second match of the tournament.

The all-rounder top-scored with 77, his 11th career half-century, to take India agonisingly close to a win against the Black Caps on Wednesday as they chased a modest 240. Although they fell short, he earned the respect of fans for his effort in the high-stakes clash.

In response, Jadeja, whose place in this star-packed Indian team had been questioned, thanked fans for their support, promising to continue giving his best "till my last breath".

He tweeted: "Sports has taught me to keep on rising after every fall and never to give up."

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar had criticised him as little more than a "bits and pieces" player, but the commentator admitted he had "ripped me apart on all fronts", tweeting that "this is the Jadeja we haven't seen before".

In the aftermath of the upset, captain Kohli, the world's leading batsman, had called for a "measured reaction" and former India greats Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V. S. Laxman were not overly critical in their collective inquest despite their disappointment as 240 was "not a big total".

Batting legend Tendulkar said: "I feel we can't be all the time relying on Rohit (Sharma) to give a good start or Virat to come and make sure a solid foundation is built."

The trio, however, were in unison that M.S. Dhoni's experience meant he should have batted higher in the order.

Laxman felt he should have walked in ahead of Dinesh Karthik as the "stage was set" for him, while former captain Ganguly reckoned the wicket-keeper batsman would have had a calming effect had he come in sooner as "India needed experience at that stage".

He added: "If Dhoni was there when (Rishabh) Pant was batting, he would not have allowed Pant to play that shot against the breeze. Dhoni should have batted up. You need that composure and not just his batting."

In New Zealand, the local media were forced to admit their error after many had written off the team's chances against India, with Stuff website calling the win "humble pie", while Radio Sport declared it "eat your words Thursday".

Calling it one of the Black Caps' "best-ever one-day performances", former skipper Daniel Vettori said it bode well and with "a lot of confidence behind them, you would be hopeful of them doing it again in the final (at Lord's on Sunday)".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Heads held high in painful loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe