Champion teams are defined by a story. The 83 team was a group of no-hopers with a team, 87 was a Renaissance for the team, 92 was a back to the wall coming back miraculously and 75,79, 03, 11, 07 and 15 was about domination of the best team.
If India is serious about winning 2019, it needs to decide what its story is going to be. Because right now, after the England game, the narrative is one of bizarre surrender.
Today we saw 2 batsmen, Dhoni and Jadhav, not even trying to win. Not only were they not trying to hit boundaries, but they were first-bumping through it all, as if that was the plan, as if they were satisfied with how things were going.
True only 27 runs had been scored off the first 10 overs, and that in itself was going to put pressure on those coming at the end. But slow starts happen, when the bowling is good and wickets needs to be conserved. There is cricketing logic there, you conserve wickets in the beginning hoping to ride out a good spell. You do not do it at the end.
Scoring 100 odd of 10 overs with 6 wickets in hand should not be, in 2019, cause for a team to give up, that too one with aspirations of being a World Cup champion. The two batsmen gave up, in the way Mongia and Prabhakar did once upon a time, and that represented the nadir of Indian cricket. One can understand two tail-enders batting to reduce the margin of loss, but Dhoni and Jadhav play in the team precisely to finish games in these situations.
Which is why today was such a low. This was a craven, spineless display that made no cricketing sense.
Mind you there is no shame in losing, or losing big, but there is nothing worse than not even trying. It is the very essence of competitive sports, to try one’s best to win and if they don’t, why it’s not a game anymore.
Was this the plan? If it was to eliminate Pakistan it makes no sense, Pakistan are not statistically eliminated and it’s in India’s cricketing interest to play Pakistan in the knock outs rather than England because Pakistan is by far the weaker team. I want to believe this to be not the case, because if it was we would have validated the hate-anchors on Pakistan TV, that in 2019 we even care about Pakistan as a team, when there really is, with all due respects, no cricketing reason to do so.
If this was not the plan but just Dhoni and Jadhav’s incompetence, they deserve to be dropped. Not because they played badly or because the pitch was bad (as Rohit Sharma said in the post-match conference) but because, and a lot of experts who have played the game at the highest level felt the same, that they didn’t even try.
Of course we know that won’t happen. But it needs to, if we are to salvage an iota of self-respect.
Just going on to win the Cup won’t redeem the narrative. Winning the trophy does not make one champions.