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‘A billion broken hearts’ after India loses Cricket World Cup semifinal

India's Virat Kohli reacts after losing his wicket during a Cricket World Cup semifinal game against New Zealand in Manchester, England, on July 10, 2019. (LEE SMITH/Reuters)
India's Virat Kohli reacts after losing his wicket during a Cricket World Cup semifinal game against New Zealand in Manchester, England, on July 10, 2019. (LEE SMITH/Reuters)

There were no fireworks to light up the Indian skies.

A billion fans went silent as India was plunged into darkness as New Zealand shook the sport by pulling off the biggest upset in the history of Cricket World Cup semifinals.

Some observers maintain the biggest shock possibly came in 1987 when Allan Border ’s Australia left Pakistani fans in a daze following its victory over the great Imran Khan ’s squad in Lahore.

But for me, the magnitude of this victory was bigger. It came totally out of the clouds as nearly every pundit and every bookmaker expected captain Virat Kohli to return to Delhi with that shiny trophy.

But this one-day match at Manchester’s Old Trafford (not to be confused with Manchester United’s home field) dragged on for a second day because of rain. On the first day, a spirited Indian attack saw New Zealand labour to 211 for five off 46.1 overs, before reaching 239 for eight on Wednesday in its allotted 50 overs. This was a comparatively low total for this powerful India batting unit, but the New Zealand bowlers were simply brilliant with line and length and some exceptional fielding to bring the millionaires from India to their knees. India was bundled out for 221 in 49.3 overs to fall short of its target by 18 runs.

Apart from sending a billion fans into mourning, this defeat would also be a massive blow for Indian broadcasters, who will be forced to slash their advertising rates now that the most powerful and most followed national team is out.

The world of cricket revolves around India, because of the billions of dollars it pours into the game through its television revenue. In fact, the other Cricket World Cup semifinal, on Thursday at Edgbaston in Birmingham, was sold out weeks ago after it appeared India would face host nation England. However, South Africa knocked Australia off the top of the standings to alter the semifinal pairings. Indian fans purchased the majority of the ducats and they aren’t likely to show up on Thursday. But the pubs are likely to cash in as hordes of Indian fans will want to drown their sorrows.

On a damp Wednesday morning, the Black Caps scored 28 runs off the 23 remaining deliveries with Ross Taylor leading the way with 74. On Tuesday, skipper Kane Williamson had anchored the New Zealand innings with a knock of 67 against some disciplined Indian bowling that saw Bhuvneshwar Kumar taking three for 43 and his new ball partner Jasprit Bumrah conceding a measly 39 for one off his 10 overs. But this star-studded Indian batting was no match for the Kiwi bowlers, who were simply magnificent.

Paceman Matt Henry destroyed India with three wickets and Trent Boult was as effective at the other end with two to send India’s top order back to the pavilion for early showers .

Rohit Sharma, who led all scorers in this tournament with five centuries, fell to Henry for one and the equally-solid Lokesh Rahul also lost his wicket for one to leave India struggling at five for two.

India’s captain and other superstar Kohli was trapped leg before by Boult for one and the scoreboard read a dismal five for three and later 24 for four after 10 overs.

New Zealand also received an outstanding showing by spinner Mitchell Santner , who grabbed the vital wickets of young stars Rishabh Pant (32) and Hardik Pandya (32). India’s superb all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja joined Mahendra Singh Dhoni at 92 for six and gave the thousands of Indian fans in the stands something to cheer about as they almost pulled India to victory. Jadeja hammered 77 off 59 balls and with Dhoni, who weighed in with 50, added 116 runs before Jadeja lost his wicket to Boult. Dhoni was brilliantly run out by a spectacular direct hit by Martin Gupill to effectively end India’s dream of winning its third World Cup.

A stunned Kohli told the news conference that his team paid the price for “45 minutes of bad cricket.” He added: “It breaks your heart also, because you worked so hard throughout the tournament to build momentum, you finish No. 1 in the table, and then a spell of bad cricket and you’re out of the tournament.”

The Indian captain also praised the Black Caps. “New Zealand deserves a lot of credit because they really put up a great display of how to bowl with the new ball,” Kohli said.

Back in India, the fans reacted with shock and dismay. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the team’s fighting spirit. “A disappointing result but India batted, bowled, fielded well throughout the tournament, of which we are very proud. Wins and losses are a part of life.”

And Rahul Gandhi, until recently the head of the main opposition Congress party, said: “Though there are a billion broken hearts tonight, Team India, you put up a great fight and are deserving of our love and respect,’’ he told AFP.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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