Mumbai: After India lost to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, a massive debated erupted as everyone started asking why MS Dhoni was sent at 7. Indian fans and former cricketers were surprised after Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya were sent ahead of experienced MS Dhoni, who was widely criticised for his slow batting approach, especially in case of run chases.
Former Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman termed the team management’s decision to send Dhoni at no. 7 as a “tactical blunder”, despite losing four early wickets in quick successions.
The first semi-final which was played over two days due to rain. India restricted New Zealand to 239/8 in 50-overs. But, while India was chasing the modest target of 240 on the reserve day, India’s top-order was rattled by the Blackcaps bowler led by Matt Henry who picked three crucial wickets.
India lost four quick wickets after scoring 24 runs inside 10-overs before Dhoni (50) and Ravidnra Jadeja stitched a 116-runs partnership to take India closer to the target.
However, after India lost Jadeja and Dhoni, India’s hopes of reaching the finals got shattered as the unit lost the game by 18-runs and got eliminated from the tournament. Dhoni walked out to the pitch after Rishabh Pant who batted at number 4, followed by Karthik at No. 5, and Pandya at 6, caused a massive stir.
Following India’s loss, everyone started questioning batting coach Sanjay Bangar’s credentials as he was the batting coach during India’s semi-final defeat. Earlier, several reports came out stating that the incumbent batting coach will sacked following India’s semi-final loss.
Responding to the criticisms, India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar has responded. Bangar has stated that it wasn't his decision alone to send MS Dhoni to bat at number seven on July 10.
"I am really flattered that people are looking at me from this angle because I am not the sole decision-making authority. Believe me, we assess and go through a lot of situations", Bangar stated in an interview with the Hindustan Times.
Sanjay Bangar, who took the role of batting coach in 2014, has led the team in 50 Tests and 119 ODIs, has suggested that during the start of the World Cup, specific roles were provided to the batting group.
"We had also decided that we would have to be flexible in the middle order as far as No. 5, 6 and 7 were concerned because we were looking to maximise the 30-40 over slab," Bangar said.
"And, the individuals were well aware of it. Virat (Kohli) also stated in his press conference after the semi-finals that after the Afghanistan game, it was decided that Dhoni could bat a little lower down (till that point he had batted at No 5), so that he could play post the 35th over as he could accelerate in the death overs and also take care of the lower order with his experience. So, he was slated to bat at No 6 in the semis.”
"Dinesh Karthik was promoted to No 5 after consultations in the changing room to stem the fall of wickets and resurrect the innings and leave Dhoni, our most experienced player, to do the finisher's job.
Lastly Bangar said, "Ravi Shastri has categorically stated that it was a team decision. So, I fail to understand why this perception that the decision to send Dhoni at No. 7 was solely mine."
After India’s ouster from the World Cup, India’s head coach Ravi Shastri had also mentioned that the management and the team decided to send Dhoni at 7.
"It was a team decision. Everyone was in with it -- and it was a simple decision, too. Last thing you wanted was Dhoni coming out to bat early and getting out -- that would have killed the chase," Ravi Shastri.
"We needed his experience later. He is the greatest finisher of all times -- and it would have been criminal to not make use of him in that way. The whole team was clear on it," Bangar explained.
Bangar also mentioned that just like the Indian fans, the team was also "extremely disappointed with the semi-final exit" but were "proud of the brand of cricket played".