World Cup 2019: A worrying trend that India needs to break if they are to lift the trophy
A billion hopes will be riding on Team India when they take on New Zealand in the first semi-final of the World Cup 2019. Scheduled to be played at Old Trafford on 9 July, the game comes as one of their final frontiers in the quest to be crowned the World Champions for the third time. However, their successful campaign stands threatened by a worrying trend; a trend that might surprise many, given the mettle and consistency of the Indian team over the years.
Starting from 2014, India's campaign in ICC tournaments has been following an upsetting pattern for the fans. Recent history suggests that the team has faltered in the knockouts after notching up thumping victories in the group stages of these tournaments. Buckling under the pressure and bowing down to opponents in crunch times, the Indian teams over the past five years have been left stranded within touching distances of glory.
Here, we take a look at how the team failed to over the knockout challenge in the past 4 successive instances.
ICC WT20 2014: Final against Sri Lanka
A Virat Kohli special in the semi-final against South Africa saw India through to final against Sri Lanka in the ICC T20 World Cup of 2014. Being put into bat first, the Indians, barring Virat Kohli, found the going tough against a top-quality bowling display. The Lankan bowlers were in excellent form to restrict a strong batting lineup to a paltry score of 130 in 20 overs.
Coming out to chase, a determined Sri Lankan unit withstood early setbacks to essay a memorable chase. The team's trusted knight, Kumar Sangakkara, was once again among the runs to guide his team to a historic victory.
ICC World Cup 2015: Semi-Final against Australia
India locked horns with Australia in the 2nd semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2015. Taking the field as the defending champions, MS Dhoni and co were expected to put on a tough fight in their effort to guard the title. However, what followed did not leave the Indian fans with fond memories.
Electing to bat first, Australia made merry under the sun. Led by Steve Smith and Aaron Finch, the hosts took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners and ended up scoring a daunting total of 328 on the board.
After getting off to a solid start, the Indian chase was derailed quickly by the Australian fast bowlers. The Men in Blue were bowled out for 233 under 47 overs to be sent back home packing.
ICC WT20 2016: Semi-Final against West Indies
The MS Dhoni-led side took on West Indies in a blockbuster semi-final of the ICC WT20 in 2016. The hosts, backed by boisterous support at the Wankhede, were touted as the favourites to win the contest. Coming out to bat first, the team's charge was once again led by the brilliance of Virat Kohli who notched an unbeaten 89 to take India to a challenging 192 in 20 overs.
The score though proved too little for the Windies who were in red hot form with the bat. The likes of Lendl Simmons, Johnson Charles and Andre Russell looked in blistering touch and knocked India out of the tournament to script heartbreak for the fans.
ICC Champions Trophy 2017-Final against Pakistan
India's most recent debacle in ICC tournaments came in 2017 when they lost to Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy.
Virat Kohli's decision to bowl first proved costly as Pakistan put up a spirited show with the bat. With Fakhar Zaman emerging as the chief destroyer, the Indian bowlers were taken for plenty on the day as Pakistan registered a scary 338 on the board.
The hopes of witnessing a cracking battle between the arch rivals were soon fizzled out as the Indian chase never hit the groove. The star-studded batting lineup had no answer to Pakistan's pace attack as the Men in Blue crashed to a 180-run defeat to extend their formula of choking in the knockouts.
What lies ahead?
While the knockout debacles in the recent past might be causing concerns among the Indian supporters, it is important to note that the team has come a long way in the last two years. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah currently stand as the one-day format's finest players and possess the skill and experience to steer the team in adversity.
In fact, Kohli stated earlier that lessons have been learnt from the Champions Trophy loss in 2017 and the team has "plugged the gaps". The Indian skipper also believes the current side to be stronger than the one that represented India in the Champions Trophy two years ago. And if Team India's performance in the ongoing showpiece event is anything to go by, there's no reason to find fault with Kohli's belief.
Come the knockout stages of the World Cup 2019 and India will be keen on going all the way to glory. After all, what better way to set the trend right on the biggest stages of them all.
Also read - World cup all time records