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.

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?

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.

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!