"They tried their best. They lost to a better team. They were in Australia for four months. They were in Australia for three months. This is a team in transition. After the retirement of the big three...They lost the toss. They missed an all-rounder. Rohit cannot bat in big games. Kohli cannot bat in big games. What can Dhoni do all by himself? Why is Jadeja in the team? Why is Anushka Sharma in the team?
We don't eat meat. We don't have the killer instinct. They should ban cricket. After beating Pakistan they didn't care. They nearly lost to West Indies. They nearly lost to Zimbabwe. Even England beat them. Why was Sehwag not there?
IPL is killing cricket. BCCI is killing cricket. We overachieved by reaching the semis. Why did Stuart Binny not play a single match? Sachin should not have retired. Virat should get married and settle down.
Don't wait up, I'm going out with my friends to attack that cricketer's house."
I don't know what is worse, overreacting to a defeat or not reacting at all. I probably felt a lot worse after South Africa's loss. And I was rooting for New Zealand. Here, I was all for India or at least so I thought. It was a dreary one-sided game, one that was lost quite early in the piece and from then on we were treated to India consolidating its defeat.
When India won the 2011 World Cup, the high point for me was Dhoni's customary, "Well of course" which we'd all caught on to by then; and I fear so had MS' spin doctors. He was well of course-ing a lot less, but such was the enormity of the moment, he just bleated it out with a wide Trademark MS grin. I suspect most people chose the Dhoni winning six over the well of course. While Delhi took to the roads, I stopped in my car just shy of a blazing Aurobindo Marg that resembled the liberation of Benghazi; yeah, there was a streaking pickup truck with a flag that sealed it for me.
We sat mesmerised in the car, watching the liberators shoot across. That was good enough for me.
After India lost the 2015 World Cup semi final, the highpoint for me, if you can call it that, was Dhoni's post match chat again. Here was a guy who had already moved on, accepted defeat, analysed the loss on air, and spoke about it like he often does after most games.
He mentioned only Shikhar Dhawan's wicket. In hindsight, Dhawan's wicket was the game - India lost him in the 13th over when they were going at a rate that threatened both Australia's score and bowling. Both Dhawan and Rohit were riding a lucky break each, possibly even riding India's luck. Dhawan's wicket sucked the life and any sense of wellbeing out of India's chase - even before Kohli's wicket the innings was put on life-support. Here was a team that had won seven on the trot but yet to beat Australia all tour. They were under a spell, Oz was the wizard.
When you know, does it make the pain less? Suspect more than anyone, Dhoni knows what this bunch can do and cannot do. He also is more than aware of his own limitations. One that commentary continues to shy away from. On air, we were continuously reminded that the chase was on as long as Dhoni was there. Later on air, Dhoni confessed India lacks batting lower down the order.
On April 2, 2011, India was chasing Sri Lanka's 274. Dhoni walked in to bat before Yuvraj and Raina - at 114/3, at the fall of Kohli's wicket. It was the 22nd over. And a World Cup final to boot. On March 26, 2015, India was chasing Australia's 328. Dhoni walked in to bat after Raina's wicket - at 108/4. It was the 23rd over. No batsmen to follow.
Since the 2011 Finals, Dhoni has batted at number five only seven times - the last time, only recently against Pakistan in this World Cup. Throughout his career, he's batted at five or above in 88 of his 228 innings - he's scored six of his nine ODI centuries here. He even averages ten more than his career average.
India went into this World Cup with five batsmen and the X man, Dhoni - who against top attacks, in overseas' conditions is much more of a known quantity. Almost everything that Dhoni has done in his career, especially as captain, stands as vindication. Dhoni knew this. And played to this knowledge. That's what street smart is, that's what Dhoni is.
Am I blaming Dhoni for the defeat? No. In all likelihood, India would've still lost had he walked in at the fall of Virat's wicket. But that would have been some dare. Dhawan showed some of that dare, and the Aussies went all helter-skelter. That's the fear of the unknown.
But I guess, Dhoni already knew otherwise, he usually does.
First published here