World Cup 2019: Why India's campaign wasn't a failure despite the team crashing out in the semi-finals

Nishtha Kanal

India had a disastrous outing in the World Cup semi-finals

The sun still rises the morning after the defeat, as the Indian Cricket Team and the fans are both left to pick up the bits and pieces of the truncated campaign left behind.

As the first semi-final of this year's World Cup went into day two, thanks to the ominous rains that have constantly tailed most teams, spirits were high. Both, for fans of team India and the Blackcaps supporters; the former set believing anything under 250 was a chaseable target, the latter determined that the resilient New Zealand side will prove their mettle yet again.

In the end, the Kiwis turned out to be the stronger side on the day, dominating the field of play in the second innings with their rigid discipline and sticking to plan. With the Indian top order crumbling for barely 5 runs on the board, the Kane Williamson side ensured they barely took the foot off the pedal, choking the life out of the batting side with tight bowling and periodic wicket-taking deliveries.

And despite Ravindra Jadeja's resilient batting display, India fell just short - by 18 runs - collapsing even as the finishing line was in sight.

Such is the cruel nature of the sport, of the format, that the table-toppers have been knocked out of the contest, returning home with nothing to show for the tournament of their lives. The cold pages of a history book will remember just the scorecards and not the edge-of-the-seat thriller matches this team has given us throughout the tournament.

So here are a few things Indian fans should take away from the World Cup campaign:

We're still a strong side

Go easy on Pant

The five stages of grief is never more evident than when you see Indian fans after the national team has crashed out of an ICC tournament. Back in the '90s, we'd skip the first stage of denial and head straight to anger, depression and acceptance quite quickly.

With the team becoming resurgent at the turn of the century, our denial and bargaining stages became a lot more evident, but so did the anger. How many times have we seen fans calling for heads being rolled and line ups being overhauled when team India doesn't go all the way? Loads of times.

Every social networking platform has been abuzz with the kind of convinced tips and tricks that only an Indian fan can conjure up since the top order collapse began on Wednesday evening.

But take a breather and head to the bargain bit of grief. Up until the second half of the match yesterday, we'd been the stronger team. Despite being probably the most injury-plagued side, what with Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar and the minor scare that Bhuvneshwar Kumar endured, the team has moved the pieces around enough to have a battle-ready unit.

The criticism that Rishabh Pant, in particular, has had to endure has probably been the most unfair and undeserved of the lot. At 21 years of age and only eight matches in, Pant has been a rising star in the Indian ranks. It's hardly fair to expect a player this raw, this new into the side, to play a match-winning knock. To be fair to him, he wasn't even in the initial squad announced for the World Cup, and even endured the long drawn-out debates on whether he could fit into the number four role in the line-up.

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Back to the drawing board? Not quite

Where do we go from here?

Here's a question. Would anyone be asking for a major change in the squad makeup had we won the World Cup? Of course not. If we'd won the match? Doubt it.

Then why talk about a complete overhaul thanks to one disastrous second half of a game?

Naysayers would exclaim that the nature of the sport demands you be the dominant side throughout the match. After all, like they rightly say, cricket is a game of two halves.

Team India went into the World Cup with what some would call the strongest line-up the team had seen in decades. And despite being marred by injuries, the team came good. A failure in one match shouldn't be a call to axe half the dressing room.

The end of every World Cup has been seen as just the beginning of preparations for the next one; it's only the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world of cricket. But Virat Kohli and the team management must back the players they've thrown their weights behind.

Young guns like Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini and Shubman Gill are waiting for their turns in the wings. But our current squad is a young one as well, with a lot of cricket and improvement waiting for them. It's going to be hard to strike that delicate balance between giving a shot to new players versus trying to keep the morale high in the players already in the squad. And that's where the true test of captaincy will lie for Kohli.

The Dhoni conundrum

End of the road for Dhoni?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's impending retirement has been a bit of a Damocles' sword on the team and the fans for quite a bit now. For a man who has shouldered the dream of a billion Indians on his shoulders, the swashbuckling former captain of team India had started to look all too human in 2019.

Back in January, as India trail blazed through Australia, Dhoni suffered from some intense cramps in Adelaide and his then 37-years showed painfully on his body. Despite a loaded Indian Premier League campaign, Dhoni looked a shadow of himself during the World Cup - almost like he'd switched off and couldn't find a way to turn into the man he became on the field for India for over a decade.

There were sparks of his cool, brilliant demeanour during the England and Wales World Cup tour, but those were far and too few in between. Thus bringing up the inevitable, dreaded question - is this it for Dhoni?

When he gave up the captaincy to Kohli, many of his loyal fans thought that was that for Captain Cool. But in hindsight, it looked like a move in anticipation for the World Cup preparations. But the elephant in the room must be addressed now.

When the next World Cup rolls in, Dhoni will be 42 and it's quite clear he's not willing to go on for that long. With his departure, the question isn't 'Who will be the next wicketkeeper?' but 'Who will fill that void?'.

And while we take heart in the World Cup campaign we've had and celebrate Dhoni, this question is probably going to haunt Kohli & co. for months to come.

It's possibly been one of the best World Cup campaigns ever

Rising star

The 2011 World Cup was a different beast - home conditions made us favourites, as did the general team make up.

But it's only in 2019 that team India has had such a comprehensive team of winners. Pretty much every individual player in the team has been a consistent match-winner on several occasions for India. And look at the names that have come good in this campaign - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan (before his injury), Virat Kohli Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja... The list goes on.

Going into English conditions - and we've not necessarily have had the best of time in England in the recent past - we were given no quarter by most teams, including the likes of Afghanistan.

Team India has only looked out of sorts in a handful of conditions and unfortunately, the semi-final happened to be one of those days. The defeat against England and New Zealand are the only two times that we've been beaten comprehensively and that's something that won't necessarily reflect in the annals of history.

So, dear Indian Cricket Fans, take heart because this is not the end of the road, no matter what the scoreboards say. This current side is destined for bigger, better things. And we'll be watching.