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Cricket World Cup: Former greats attribute India's loss to missed opportunities

Sydney: Attributing India's ouster from the World Cup to crucial missed opportunities, former cricketers on Thursday said the team needed a big knock from a top-order batsman to have a shot at overhauling the mammoth Australian total.

Set a steep target of 329, the defending champions lost by 95 runs to the Aussies in the semifinal here to crash out of the World Cup.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's run-a-ball 65 was the best by an Indian batsman in a botched up chase as Australia set up a summit showdown with co-hosts and trans-Tasmanian rivals New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday.

"I think the best two teams have reached the final. They have the best two captains on display at the World Cup and they are the most balanced for these conditions," said former India skipper Rahul Dravid.

Another former captain Sourav Ganguly said that India lost to a much better team and once they let the co-hosts score 328, the dice was heavily loaded against Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men.

"India were outplayed by a much better team. First it was a good toss to win for Australian captain Michael Clarke. Second, it is the pressure of the target of 329, the pressure of chasing a big total that did India in. Had India batted first and put up 329, Australia would also have been under pressure.

"Third, Australia had a better bowling attack. Once you (India) let Australia score 328 then it was a difficult proposition for India," he added.

Australian spin legend Shane Warne said the Indians let it slip when they failed to capitalise on the good start that openers Rohit Sharma (35) and Shikhar Dhawan (45) provided.

"Both Rohit and Shikhar got off to a flier and gave India a real chance. Ultimately, you need the top three-four to get a big hundred to have a chance in such a huge chase," Warne said.

Warne, however, credited the Australian bowlers for exerting relentless pressure on the Indians. The iconic tweaker also felt star batsman Virat Kohli's early dismissal pegged India back.

"Australia bowled outstandingly. Besides, Virat Kohli got out early and when he gets out cheaply, India struggles," Warne pointed out.

"But it is hard to blame Kohli for the chase. It is hard chasing such scores against guys like (Mitchell) Johnson. And (Mitchell) Starc has been an outstanding finisher, the way he has been bowling, Johnson looks like a back-up. I think even Johnson was also very good today though it has not been the best of World Cups," Warne said.

Counting the positives, Warne said "I think the balance of the Indian team was not bad. You may not realise at this moment but Indian batsmen will go away as better players."

Dravid felt India needed someone to play an innings like Steve Smith.

"You needed an Innings like Steve Smith, only if that had happened it would allowed the Dhonis and Jadejas to play the cameos. It was never going to be easy against this Australian attack.

"Rahane has been fantastic, not a high-profile character but has grown as a person. He has been terrific for India right through the summer," Dravid said.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh felt that India could have chased down the target of 329, but lack of partnerships hurt them.

"I thought the SCG pitch was an Indian track rather than an Australian. It was a flat track and India should have chased down the target. The lack of partnerships was India's undoing," he said.

"India did not play to their potential and a better team won today. But The Indians gave their best and there should not be any extreme reaction against the Indian cricketers."

Former Australia skipper Ian Chappell felt the Indian bowlers went astray with their line and length.

"Couple of times they went astray. They lost the plot a little bit while bowling to Steve Smith.

"I think that the Australians have got more match winners than India. They are not relying on the same guy all the time. They have got a lot of wicket-taking bowlers. And when they have beaten you consistently, it is very very difficult. Australia were the superior team," Chappell said.

Former India captain Gavaskar conceded Australia were the better team.

"Australia were the better team. Batting wise they had the partnerships and later on some big hitting. The bowling was very very effective.It wasn't the kind of flowing opening partnership which we are used to from Rohit and Dhawan.

"They really were on a roll, I think the toss was crucial today. Very disappointed by the loss today. India were outplayed. There is a huge distance between the two teams in terms of results."

West Indian batting legend Brian Lara was left disappointed with India's showing.

"Very disappointed, the Indians kept the Australians to a decent total. I was expecting a bit more from the Indians. Smith's hundred was inevitable. He is very good, have to give him credit, he looks in total control.

"Indians played great cricket against teams they have beaten before, the result today was something that was expected. Australia have been the better team and they have proved it today. 328 was chaseable but they totally dominated. The best two teams are in the final," Lara said.

Ex-India star batsman VVS Laxman was expecting a hard-fought match.

"I am a little bit disappointed. I was hoping that the match would be close. It was a test for the Indian bowlers. The Australian batting unit is ageless and they put pressure on Indian bowlers. (But) India could have avoided the huge margin of defeat. Had it gone to the last over, I would have been satisfied.

"It was just about the quality of the players. Dhawan and Rohit gave India a good foundation and the Indians have handled pressure well but the Australians were better in their bowling department," Laxman said.  

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