England's captain Eoin Morgan
England's captain Eoin Morgan, centre, walks past India's Virat Kohli, right, and Rohit Sharma during the World Cup match between them at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AP

Who will solve these lingering mysteries?

By Chiranjib Sengupta, Assistant Editor

England's Chris Woakes
England's Chris Woakes, second right, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of India's Rohit Sharma, during the match at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: In India, saffron is known as the colour of sacrifice.

It’s hardly a wonder then that Team India, sporting their saffron jerseys for the first time on Sunday, sacrificed the spirit of the cricket at the altar of tactical convenience in their match against England. The macabre spectacle that the match degenerated into towards the end forced many spectators at Edgbaston to abandon the game and leave the stadium.

The match was always going to be tough – not because an Indian victory would have given Pakistan a comfortable chance of making it to the semi-finals, but because England were on the verge of being ousted from the final four. They still can be, but at least England have made a strong case.

Back to the game, and fans around the world are not upset because India lost.

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They are upset because of the cowardly surrender with which the team accepted their fate – even with five wickets in hand and one of the best finishers of the game on the crease.

They are upset because India lost the game BY A MEAGRE 31 RUNS.

They are upset because India NEVER seemed interested in winning the match.

Here are some of the unanswered questions that linger nearly 24 hours since the game finished:

1. Bowling two spinners was one fatal error of judgement by the team management. But then why those two bowlers were allowed to complete their full quota of 20 overs and concede 160 runs is a mystery bigger than the Bermuda Triangle. By contrast, England used Adil Rashid for only 6 overs and giving away 40 runs. What happened to part-timer Virat Kohli? Why not even try the off-break of Kedar Jadhav? How about Rohit Sharma?

India's MS Dhoni (left) speaks with Yuzvendra Chahal
India's MS Dhoni (left) speaks with Yuzvendra Chahal during the World Cup group stage match against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AFP

2. Mohammad Shami has been in devastating form this World Cup ever since he got a look in to replace an injured Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. And despite swinging matches India’s way, his contribution hasn’t really been acknowledged. His first five-wicket haul in World Cup yesterday was a moment for celebration for the nation. But his death-over bowling wasn’t – where a pacer like him bafflingly bowled so many straight full-toss deliveries, just asking the batsmen to connect for a lusty boundary.

3. Why did India promote Rusty Rishabh ahead of Hardik Pandya? By the team’s own admission, Rishabh Pant hasn’t had enough time to get a good feel of English conditions in the one-day format. This is his first World Cup. His rambling innings and desperate attempts to get run out clearly showed it. And Hardik Pandya has been in blistering form. Therefore was the logic of introducing a left-right combination the only deciding factor? An extra 10-over stay by Pandya could have had a completely different result.

4. How do you explain India’s slog over batting? It was the same pair of Dhoni and Jadhav that significantly slowed down India’s scoring rate against Afghanistan. But then India were batting first. And it was Afghanistan. Here, there was a lot at stake. Including the pride of Team India and millions of their die-hard fans. Scoring singles in the death overs? One six in India’s entire batting innings? We now know that TS Eliot is Team India’s favourite poet. For it was he who wrote: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” The match ended the same way for the men in saffron yesterday. They never wanted to win it.

How the game unfolded Image Credit: A.K.S. Satish/Gulf News

India now must win either of their encounters with Bangladesh or Sri Lanka to qualify for the semi-finals – and they nearly certainly can’t take the top spot of the table. The approach to the game Sunday showed India was perhaps wary of facing other teams – is that because of what happened at the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017?

Say what, it will indeed be interesting if Pakistan also manages to get into the final four and faces India for a semi-final knock out!

How do you begin to explain the baffling finish?

By Shyam A. Krishna, Opinion Editor

India's MS Dhoni
India's MS Dhoni, third right, watches as England players celebrate after their win at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AP

It was bizarre. I haven’t seen a worse finish to a cricket match. What happened to India’s innings? True, the target was very steep. And England bowled tight lines, chipping away at the Indian batting. That should not have prevented a final assault. The blitz never came.

A 31-run loss with five wickets in hand! That was baffling.

A big defeat in the face of a spirited chase would have been honourable. Throwing in the towel without making a genuine attempt is humiliating. Why didn’t Dhoni and Jadhav go for their shots? They were content to work the singles. Were they trying to protect the net run rate? That still doesn’t answer the absolute lack of aggression. And the sheer lack of intent.

The Indian Premier League has shown us that an asking rate of 10 runs per over is no impediment to a victorious chase. Times without number, we have seen matches being won from what looked like a lost cause. So I won’t believe that India’s match against England in the Cricket World Cup 2019 was over, with 10 overs left.

When 30 overs were bowled, it looked as if we had a Twenty20 match on our hands. The asking rate was around 10. A heady run chase loomed ahead. But the pursuit never took off. Rather the chase was never triggered.

Why? That’s the question Indian cricket supporters are asking. Paying spectators have reason to be aggrieved. They were shortchanged. Social media is flooded with their vitriol.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the legendary finisher. Feared and respected for his ability to take matches deep into the final over and conjure victories from losing positions. Dhoni finishing matches with soaring sixes have often left us with goosebumps. On Sunday, we were left wringing our hands in frustration.

England's Chris Woakes
England's Chris Woakes (R) shakes hands with India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C) and Kedar Jadhav (L) after the match at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AFP

Keeping Dhoni company was Kedhar Jadhav, another finisher of repute. A cricketer who broke into the Indian side on the sheer strength of his ability to farm the strike with tailenders and provide explosive finishes.

When Dhoni and Jadhav are at the crease, you could expect fireworks. The England bowling was good. But good bowling never worried these stalwarts. A couple of hefty blows would have turned the heat on them. That pressure is enough to turn good bowlers into amateurs. English bowlers were allowed to flourish. There was no pressure.

Indian spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, went for plenty of runs. Yet Indian batsmen treated Adil Rashid with respect. And Indians are supposed to be the best players of spin. If Dhoni and Jadhav had taken a leaf out of Hardik Pandya’s playbook, we would have had an exhilarating finish.

India may still have lost. At least, the team would have the satisfaction of fighting till the last ball. There is pride in defeat too.

Why and where did India lose the way?

By A.K.S. Satish, Senior Pages Editor

India's captain Virat Kohli, left, interacts with Rohit Sharma
India's captain Virat Kohli, left, interacts with Rohit Sharma during the match against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: India were outbatted and outbowled by England in their group game at Edgbaston. In the final analysis of the game, India lost the match in the first 10 overs of the game and never showed any intensity to alter their approach after that.

If it is important to win sessions in a Test match, it is equally important to dominate or win a 10-over period. Sadly, in the entire match only a two 10-over period India managed to have the edge while bowling, and one 10-over period while batting.

Chasing a record target of 338 to win in 50 overs, the asking rate from the start of the innings was 6.76 runs per over, but the Indians’ net run rate never came close to that mark, excepting in the last 10 overs by which time the asking rate shot up to well past the 11-run mark.

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One of the reasons for having a poor start is that dependable opener Shikhar Dhawan had to pull out of the event due to injury and he has a special chemistry with Rohit Sharma, as they have many an occasion laid the perfect foundation for a big chase.

It was a similar situation the hosts England were during their earlier games where they struggled without getting a proper start and once the dependable pair of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow were back, then they supported each other to give a roaring start against India.

However, individually the Indians did manage to achieve or cross the required run rate in every 10-over period after the first 10, the best being the duration between the 30th and 40th overs where India scored 82 runs, but lost two crucial wickets of Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant. This twin loses stopped the world No. 2 ODI side from accelerating further in the final period. In fact, by the end of the 40th over only 11 runs separated the teams.

Subsequently, the scoring rate dipped in the final 10 despite three of the best hitters in the team, Hardik Pandya, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav, batting in tandem, scoring only 72, way short of the required rate, but England managed to score 92 during the same period.

India lose to England and social media erupts with memes, call Indian team “true patriots”

By Shreya Bhatia, Reader Interactivity Journalist

India's MS Dhoni shakes hands with England's Jonny Bairstow
India's MS Dhoni shakes hands with England's Jonny Bairstow at the end of the match. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: India lost to England by 31 runs in yesterday’s World Cup match and social media erupted with questions.

Some tweeps even went as far as to say that the match was fixed.

Why did India lose?

On Twitter #IndiaVsEngland was a top trend and fans used the hashtag to discuss the match and troll #TeamIndia.

@AnwarLodhi tweeted: “If @ICC should investigate one match for fixing, this is the match #IndiaVsEngland at Edgbaston. I don’t say this is for money: this may be a ‘strategic match fixing’ to keep a certain team out of the semi-finals. This type of fixing is also against the spirit of cricket.”

Tweep @AAKASHPUNHANI: “India is key financer of @ICC.... So expecting anything fair from them is just hitting our heads on wall. Pathetic.”

And @ShireenKoul posted a picture of Indian team captain Virat Kohli laughing with other players from the Indian team, with the caption: “First time ever.... losing team is as happy as the Winning Team.”

Some even poked fun at the dark blue and orange dominated Indian team jersey and made political references. Tweep @MyFellowIndians posted: “Saffron: Bad for the country, bad for the Indian Cricket Team.”

Early in the World Cup season, the Pakistan cricket team were criticised for their lack of fitness. There were rumours allegeing that the cricketers were consuming “fastfood”, which resulted in their lack of fitness and tiredness on the field.

After yesterday’s match, a picture of Indian captain Virat Kohli started making rounds wherein he is seen eating a burger, in the dressing room.

Fans made memes about the picture and joked that the reason India underpeformed was because they were eating junk food, like the Pakistan team.

Tweep @manikkewtguy posted: “Really Virat, having burger?”

@grjain tweeted: #INDvENG Virat is eating a burger, King Kohli knows how to tease Pakistan .”

What happened to Dhoni?

While the Indian team’s performance was criticised, fans singled-out player Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his inability to make runs during the match.

Users said that Dhoni “gave away” runs and hinted it was a deliberate attempt to throw the Pakistan team out of the tournament.

Tweep @lakshayrohilla3 posted: “Lt. Colonel MS Dhoni is real patriot, he single-handedly kicked Pakistan out of the world cup #IndiaVsEngand.” He used a picture of Dhoni wearing the Indian Territorial Army unifrom, after he was conferred the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel on November 1, 2011.

User @Dhawal_Odedra shared a picture of Dhoni with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and captioned it: “Today, Lt. Colonel Mahendra Singh Dhoni was on his national duty. Please don’t blame him! #indiavsEngland #INDvENG”

Disappointed twitter fan @karanku100 posted: “Dear Dhoni, Today as a fan I’m ashamed and shocked the way you batted in last overs. You didn’t even try. The time has come when you should make a strong decision about your career. You are my idol and will remain forever.... Your die hard fan ....”

Dhoni also faced criticism from former cricket captain Saurav Ganguli, who was “at a loss for words”, during the game.

On air during the match, when asked a question by former cricketer Nasser Hussain about the performance of Dhoni and the team, Ganguly said: “I don’t have an explanation for that .... I can’t explain these singles. It’s also the length and the bounce that has deceived the Indian batsmen. You can’t be chasing 338 and still have 5 wickets in the end. It’s about mind-set and the way you look at the game. The message had to be clear: no matter where it comes and no matter where the ball lands you have to find the boundary....”

According to reports online, Ganguly told a presenter from broadcaster Star Sports that “intent” was lacking from the Indian players.

He said: “The first 10 overs and the last 6 overs left a lot to be desired. Hopefully they will go back and reflect because they have been in excellent form this World Cup.

“The intent was not good enough. I would have been [happier] if India were 300 all-out. This situation can happen again and they will have to find different ways to succeed in the first and last 10 overs.”

Many users agreed with Ganguly and quoted him online.

Pakistani fans disappointed

In a rare turn of events, Pakistani fans were rooting for team India in yesterday’s match, as their win would allow Pakistan to stay in the tournament.

Many fans had placed their hopes on Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni, but were ultimately washed away by India’s poor performance.

Tweep @navneet_mundhra compared Dhoni’s performance to that of Pakistani cricketer Misbah Ul Haq’s and said: “Pakistani friends were rooting for Dhoni to do his thing. He, instead, pulled a Misbah on them #CWC19 #indiavsEngland.”

Tweep @junaidsalim posted: “Disappointing cricket from India. Showed no intent to win the match. #indiavsEngland.”

While many other Pakistani fans shared memes and trolled India for “giving away the match to England”.

Online user @DrNabeelChaudry tweeted a picture of the Indian cricket team squad, and compared it to a picture of snakes. He posted the cheeky pictures with the caption: “Find the difference?”

And tweep @wardag21 shared a picture of the Indian team with the caption: “Best actor of the year award goes to #teamIndia.”