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

Dubai: 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 India 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, indeed.

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.

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.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the legendary finisher. Feared and respected for his ability to take matches deep into the final over. Nobody has a better record when conjuring up victories from losing positions. Dhoni finishing matches with soaring sixes have often left us with goosebumps. Yesterday (Sunday), we were left wringing our hands in frustration.

Keeping Dhoni 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 and the pressure is enough to turn good bowlers into amateurs. English bowlers were allowed to flourish.

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 took a leaf out of Hardik Pandya’s playbook, we would have had an exhilarating finish.

India would have lost. At least, the team could have taken pride in fighting till the last ball.