After India slumped to a heart-breaking defeat against New Zealand in the semi-final of the 2019 ICC World Cup to knock out of the marquee event, Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Wednesday revealed as to why experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni was sent to bat lower down the order.
Coming to bat at No.7 position when India were reeling at 71/5 in their chase of 240 runs, Dhoni initially attempted to stitch a partnership with all-rounder Hardik Pandya (32) adopting a cautious attitude.
After Pandya's dismissal, the wicketkeeper-batsman shared a crucial partnership of 116 runs with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja to help India push their way back into the game after looking down and out at one stage of the match. Dhoni finished with a valiant 50 off 72 balls in what was his last World Cup innings while Jadeja with a significant knock of 77 but India fell 18 runs short of a target.
When quizzed as to why Dhoni came so late in the order, Kohli said that he was given the role to bat with the lower order so that he could control one end in case of pressure situation.
"Well, he's been given that role after the first few games of being in a situation where he can, if the situation's bad, he can control one end like he did today or if there is a scenario where there are six or seven overs left he can go and strike," Kohli said in a post-match conference.
The Indian skipper also did not shy away from praising New Zealand for putting up a great display with the new ball and forcing the Men in Blue to make errors.
"New Zealand deserve a lot of credit because they put up a great display how to bowl with the new ball and they had perfect line and lengths and forced us to sort of make errors, if any, or bowl good deliveries to us so the pressure created was immense in those first 40, 45 minutes.And when you lose 3-6 it is very difficult to come back into the game. Still, our effort was commendable but, yeah, that first spell made all the difference," he said.
Matt Henry finished with the brilliant figures of three for 37 while Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult bagged two wickets each. Jimmy Neesham and Lockie Ferguson also chipped in with a wicket each as India were bundled out for 221 inside 49.3 overs.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers produced a fine bowling spell to restrict the Williamson-led side to a score of 239 for eight in their stipulated 50 overs after the all-important last four clash was resumed at the previous day's scoreline of 211 for five in 46.1 overs following incessant rain.
Here is the full transcript of Virat Kohli's interview which was published in the ICC Media:
Q. Commiserations, Virat. You came under a world-class spell of fast bowling today?
Kohli: Yes, I think the game pretty much changed in those first 40 minutes when we were batting and, as I said in the post-match, New Zealand deserve a lot of credit because they put up a great display how to bowl with the new ball and they had perfect line and lengths and forced us to sort of make errors, if any, or bowl good deliveries to us so the pressure created was immense in those first 40, 45 minutes.
And when you lose 3-6 it is very difficult to come back into the game. Still, our effort was commendable but, yeah, that first spell made all the difference.
Q. Virat, I wanted to know, one bad day was, could have happened with any team and top order played out of 10 matches they played well and even the England match that India lost. Do you think that there was one day that you should have expected the middle order to put their hands up? You and Rohit and KL have done the job for seven or eight matches? Are you disappointed?
Kohli: Look, you obviously feel bad for the result and everyone goes out there to win the game for the team and if it doesn't happen, you feel, like, you could have done things differently or look at things in hindsight.
But, yeah, that is why these games are called knockouts because if the opposition plays better, you are out of the tournament. So we have to accept that.
I think we are sad but we are not, you know, devastated because the kind of cricket that we played in this tournament. We know where we stood as a team and today we were not good enough and that is the nature of this tournament. A bad day in the knockout stage you are out of the tournament.
So, I don't think that I would like to break things down immediately, but in time we'll have to sit down and analyse where we went wrong and the things we could have done right in this game particularly.
Q. Virat, at the halfway stage, 240 runs to get, what was the feeling in the camp? Could the shot selection have been better in the top order maybe?
Kohli: Yeah, Rohit got a really good ball. I thought my ball was decent. Yeah, a couple of shot selections, yes, could have been better, which I already mentioned. Chasing 240, we were very comfortable. We were confident that we can get the score. The start is always important.
And yes, look, as I said, New Zealand, the way they bowled, they did not provide any opportunities for us, for the first seven or eight overs we didn't get a ball to drive. So that shows the kind of control they bowled with and they put the fielders in the right positions and that was a perfect spell of fast bowling with the new ball, which put us under a lot of pressure.
We are not shying away from accepting that we didn't stand up to the challenge and we were not good enough under pressure and we have to accept that and accept the failure as it shows on the scoreboard.
Q. Virat, the initial setback was there, but after that Hardik and Rishabh looked like they were settling down. Are you heartbroken with the shot that Rishabh played at that point in time?
Kohli: He is an instinctive player and did well to overcome that situation and stringing a partnership with Hardik, I think the way they played after the loss of three wickets, four wickets rather, was quite commendable and in hindsight he's still young, so I made many errors when I was young in my career and he will learn, he will look back and think yes, he could have chosen a different option in that situation and he realises that already.
So all these guys have a lot of pride and passion to play for their country and they are the ones who feel the most disappointed when a mistake happens. On the outside it looks like it was an error but the person who makes it, trust me, they are the ones who suffer the most with it.
I'm sure he will reflect on it and he will come out stronger. The talent is there for everyone to see and the character is there, but, as I said, yes, a few shots, not just Rishabh but that happens in sport. You make errors, you make decisions which are not right at that time and you have to accept it.
Q. Virat, through the campaign there were discussions in the media about Dhoni's strike rate. As a captain, was it a concern for you that perhaps the lower order could have forced the pace more and could have collected runs faster?
Kohli: Well, look, it's always, you know, a safer option to look at it from outside and say, "Maybe this could have happened" but I think today he was batting with Jadeja and there was only Bhuvu to follow after so he had to hold one end together in my opinion and because Jadeja was playing so well you needed a solid partnership and to get a 100 partnership from that situation I think it had to be the right balance of one guy holding an end and Jadeja playing the way he did, his knock was outstanding.
So as I said, when you don't win in hindsight, a lot of things can reflect in different manners but you have to understand how the game panned out and until what stage did the game go. And you would obviously expect New Zealand to fight back at some stage because the target was steep after losing five or six wickets, but the way they batted together, I think it was the perfect tempo for that situation, according to me.
Q. Virat, can you explain the reasons why MS came so late in the order at No. 7?
Kohli: Well, he's been given that role after the first few games of being in a situation where he can, if the situation's bad, he can control one end like he did today or if there is a scenario where there are six or seven overs left he can go and strike.
Q. Virat, regarding the batting in the middle overs, Mitchell Santner gave away only seven runs in six overs and took two wickets, so do you think we could have played him a little more aggressively? Six runs in his first, seven runs in his first six overs.
Kohli: I wasn't there out in the middle. Again, it is very easy for me to say yes, we could have or no, it was fine. But if I knew the pace of the wicket, what the ball is doing, you looked at the scoreboard, the situation was such. So we'll leave responsibility to the two guys in the middle to make decisions because eventually, as an individual, you play one ball at a time yourself and then you are talking with your partner.
So from the outside it is very easy for us to analyse whether they should have or shouldn't have, but it should be left up to the individuals and they come up themselves and say "Maybe my decision wasn't right." You have to accept that. That is how you failures teach you and you improve in sport like that. You have to accept errors also, we are not denying any errors.
Only the guys in that situation, if I was in there and I played in that manner, I would be able to tell you why. So, yeah, as I said, in hindsight, a lot of things can be up for discussion. But you can never really assess from the outside whether it should have been done or not.
Q. Virat, how are you, as a captain, and as a player, taking this whole yourself, this disappointment? How are you feeling right now?
Kohli: Of course, very disappointed. We played outstanding cricket as I have mentioned already throughout this tournament and to just go out on the basis of 45 minutes of bad cricket is saddening and it breaks your heart also because you have worked so hard throughout the tournament to build momentum.
You finish No. 1 in the table and then a spell of bad cricket and then you are out of the tournament completely. But you have to accept it. It's happened to us before and we have all come out better cricketers because of these setbacks, especially at a stage like a World Cup.
But having said that, I mean, we have qualified to the semis and we have played some really good cricket, so we should be also proud of the way we have played and look at the positives also because there were a lot throughout this tournament, especially Rohit's performance, Jasprit with the ball and Jadeja given the opportunity, so there are many things that we can take back as positives. But yeah not having played that bad cricket and then just, as I said, 40, 45 minutes of bad cricket puts you out. As a sportsman you have to accept it, this is part and parcel of this game.
Q. Virat, New Zealand are often seen as an understated sort of side. Did they surprise you today? And also what is your -- how do you see them faring in the final against England or Australia?
Kohli: I wasn't surprised with how New Zealand played, to be honest. If there is a low total, we knew there's probably only one or two sides in world cricket that will put seven fielders in the ring and that was always going to be New Zealand.
We knew they were going to attack more and not let the game go to the end, they won't take it deep, they will go all out and play the game that way because I have seen them play that way. Today also third man was up in the ring. In the one-day game you had five catching fielders. So they know how to put pressure because they play very consistent cricket and today was an example of that and your second question was who...
Q. How do you see them faring in the final against England or Australia?
Kohli: Depends on the day. If conditions are good to bat, then they will have to bat really well. If conditions are bowler-friendly and they put enough runs on the board, they become a dangerous side as you saw in this game. It is anyone's game, knockouts, as you saw today.
Whoever plays well on the day wins. I won't pick any favourites. The team has to play well to win.
Q. Jadeja has this wonderfully cute celebration, probably looking at Sanjay Manjrekar, how were you reacting and the team and when did he go out, he seemed to be in tremendous mood, the way he ran down and hit a six, did he say something before he went out to bat? There was a point, the last three overs were left 30 or something, you were sitting on the balcony, and you seemed, were you confident at that time, so Jadeja, the celebration and the last three overs?
Kohli: I don't think we, any of us had to say anything to Jadeja after what happened over the last one week. He was quite ready to just get on to the park, to be honest (smiling). And you saw the passion with which he played and we have seen it in Test cricket a few times, he's played knock under tremendous pressure and he's got three triple hundreds in first class cricket if I'm not wrong, so the talent has obviously always been there.
And in my watching Jadeja for ten years, me playing with him as well, this is probably his top quality, like best knock according to me because the kind of pressure, the stage we are at, almost out of the game and then he produces that. So he was very motivated.
Yes, at that stage, we all felt like in the changing room the game can be closed out, it can be done, but then again he played so well and then a mistake can happen at any stage -- I don't think it was even a mistake, it was lack of execution which in one-day cricket you have to take a risk here and there.
I'm really happy for him because he's been a very understated cricketer but a top quality cricketer for India in the field, with the ball, with the bat, priceless, so he's had a great game today.
Q. Virat, 45 minutes of bad play ended the No. 1 team's campaign. So the knockouts, you think there should be like play-offs, one and two and three and four?
Kohli: Who knows in future. Maybe. If topping the table means anything. I think these things can come into consideration, looking at the magnitude of this tournament. That is a really valid point. You never know when that is going to be implemented.
But I think that's the challenge and different kind of fun of these games as well that you have to be precise. It doesn't matter what you have done before that. It's a fresh day, fresh start, and if you are not good enough, you go home. So you have to accept that, as I said. It's a different challenge for all the teams to turn up on that day and be absolutely at the top of their game and whoever does that they get the result, as you saw today.
Q. Virat, I think it was after the Pant wicket you went to share something, can you reveal what you said exactly? The other thing was, you seemed to be angry at your dismissal. In the knockouts that you have played, the points will come up that you have not scored. How disappointing has it been for you, not just this, but not having scored in the knockout matches?
Kohli: Yeah, it's very disappointing, not turning up when the team wanted me. Obviously, it feels bad. Everyone gets disappointed when they get out so it was a natural reaction. I was discussing what happened and what's the plan going forward from that situation and what kind of information needs to be sent out there in the middle, so we can assess where the game needs to go. So, yeah, these were the events that happened exactly and the points will always come up, I'm ready for that.
Q. What was the plan?
Kohli: The plan was to -- we were targeting till what over should we have X scored, so we could analyse where we stand after that and how many overs are left from bowlers and those kind of things, so we have a better idea what to say to the guys out in the middle.
When you are having a partnership, I think after a stage you still need a fresh sort of feedback from the dressing room to tell them this is where we need to head in the next 10 or 12 overs and then that eases off the pressure a bit in my opinion, so that was the discussion.