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Fan Following

Guptill mutes Dhoni's World Cup swansong

An India fan was forced to change plans last-minute to make the semi-final at Old Trafford, where a thrilling two-day match took place

Sudhindra Prasad
Back for day two of the semi-final at Old Trafford, India v New Zealand, World Cup 2019, Manchester, July 10, 2019

IDI via Getty Images

The build-up (or Probability 101 failure)
The effects of having bunked probability theory class in college to watch a game of cricket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium?
Dismissing South Africa's chances to defeat Australia, our plans were made for a road trip from Germany for a long weekend involving the second semi-final at Edgbaston and the final at Lord's.
That sinking feeling as Alex Carey holed out off Chris Morris and an almighty scramble to rejig travel plans. But that drove home the old adage: "Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties"!
Choice of game
This was my tenth India game out of a maximum of 11 that I had hoped to attend when the tournament schedule was announced. After expecting India's semi-final opponents to be Pakistan or England for the most part, a match-up against New Zealand was fitting, given their league stage match was washed out. Unfortunately, there will be no 11th match for India at this World Cup.
Team supported
Having lost to Australia in the 2015 World Cup semi-final, I was hopeful India would make the final in this edition.
Key performers
Matt Henry and Trent Boult were the absolutely vital to this New Zealand win. Under helpful conditions, their accurate line and length and constant movement fetched deserved rewards. They scythed through the India top order, exposing the vulnerable underbelly of this India team - the brittle middle order.
One thing I would have changed
Day 1: Sunny weather all through the day.
Day 2: I would have sent in MS Dhoni at No. 4 or no later than No. 5. In such a chase, Dhoni's recent scoring pace would have helped India weather the storm with minimal risk. Sending in Hardik Pandya at No. 6 and Dhoni at seven left India with no power-hitting options. Despite Ravindra Jadeja stepping up, the remaining batsmen couldn't score quickly in the final overs.
Shot of the day
Jadeja's six off Lockie Ferguson was the shot of the day. It just seemed like a drive with exaggerated follow-through, but the shot had so much power that it cleared the long-off boundary.
Sky blue attire overall with 1991-92 Benson & Hedges World Series India jersey for my brother and myself, face paint, flaming hair-dos, a few India flags and the bugle that's my constant companion at the cricket. My travel tea mug to assist with a severe bout of flu, and some supermarket food to avoid the horrid lines at food stalls, which had been a key feature at all India matches this tournament.
It was certainly a first to witness an ODI in person across two days. The only game I can recall of this nature was the England-India encounter in the 1999 World Cup, where India beat the hosts to seal a Super Six spot. Two-day internationals can be a concept in countries with poor attendances, if one team bats on day 1 under lights and the other team follows suit on day 2.
Wow moment
With India's batting resurgence gaining momentum around the 40th over, the tense India fans suddenly found their voice. After Dhoni hit Henry for a six, Old Trafford was absolutely buzzing. As Dhoni followed up his six with an ungainly glance to wide square-leg, the push for two certainly looked tight. Martin Guptill quickly swooped in on the ball and released it in quick time, hitting the stumps directly. From side-on the signs were quite ominous and it turned out that way as the replays were shown on the big screen. With that, Guptill had indeed stepped on the mute button at Old Trafford and Megadeth's Foreclosure of a Dream ran in my head, as India's 2019 World Cup dreams ended right then and there.
Fan index
While day 1 was very vibrant, loud and engaged, the second day was simply tense. Plenty of fans made the effort to return on the reserve day. I had to postpone my return to Germany and take an additional day off work. Others weren't so lucky.
(Self composed) Song of the day
To the tune of the Cuban classic "Guantanamera"
One KL Rahul
There's only one KL Rahul (Replace with "Nam huduga, One KL Rahul" if KL is in earshot - which stands for "our lad, KL Rahul" in Kannada)
One KL Raaaaaaaaaaahul
There's only one KL Rahul.
Close encounter
During the long rain break, my eyes suddenly spotted a gentleman with a handlebar moustache, who calmly stood by an entrance in an Aussie jersey. It didn't take too long to recognize the "Big Merv" Hughes, who was one of the most popular characters of the game back in the late 80s and early 90s. He looked comfortable interacting with the selfie- and autograph-seeking fans.
Rainy corner
The stands at Old Trafford offered almost no rain cover and left much to be desired. While some fans squeezed in the limited room under the stands sipping some drinks, singing or partaking in the Bhangra, others had no option but to get soaked or just sit in the open with their umbrellas. To make matters worse, there were several spots under the B stand where the water dripped through.
At Old Trafford, Stand D is an enormous temporary stand, which was built a few years ago and has since been left that way. The stand is all metal and is an extremely tall structure.Around the 45th over of the India innings, a sudden but loud noise started to emanate from stand D and this just continued to increase in intensity. Upon close review, the spectators were stamping on the metal floor to produce an enormous rhythmic noise. This went on for a few more iterations; a wonderful way to lend support to their team.
As the guitar at the stadium wailed out the main riff of Eric Clapton's Layla, Dhoni walked in and I wondered if the experienced campaigner had one last magic innings left in him to take India to the final. Although he tried his best, the free-stroking Dhoni of the old did not surface at Old Trafford. True to that song, MSD has brought opposition bowlers on their proverbial knees often over the years with his stunning batting and finishing skills. It would be safe to say that this was indeed his World Cup swansong, if not even for his ODI career. Thanks for the memories, MS.
Like the eternal "Sachin Sachin" chant, we will continue to sing away the "Team of Dhoni" song and remember how it was to be "high on MSD".
"Team of Dhoni" (to the tune of Yellow Submarine by the Beatles)
We all dream about a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis
Number 1 Dhoni
Number 2 Dhoni
Number 3 Dhoni
Number 4 Dhoni
We all dream about a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis
Number 5 Dhoni
Number 6 Dhoni
Number 7 Dhoni
Number 8 Dhoni
We all dream about a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis, a team of Dhonis
Number 9 Dhoni
Number 10 Dhoni
Number 11 Dhoni
Number 12 Dhoni
The disadvantage of having to chase in big games continues for captain Virat Kohli (win the toss or otherwise). The quality of cricket in this game was brilliant and New Zealand fought hard, just like they did in the 2015 semi-final. India did not get rolled over and to see a certain "bits & pieces" cricketer prove a point was refreshing. Although I am gutted at India not being in the final, New Zealand were deserving winners on the day. It will certainly be nice to see new World Cup champions in New Zealand or England.
Marks out of 10
Eight. That rain gripe and the result notwithstanding, the rejig and re-rejig of travel plans was well worth it. It was one of the most tense games of cricket I have ever witnessed. I am proud of the Indian team's overall performance and display across the tournament. The middle-order weakness had to show up some day. As my brother and I travelled across England for the ten India games, we have been blessed with so many experiences, beautiful sights, new friends, getting a chance to meet old friends and so many memories that will go beyond this tournament. What next? Back to the travel board preparing for the next tournament. 2023 World Cup? Absolutely. The T20 World Cup in Australia? Hmm... unsure at this moment.
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Sudhindra is an electronics engineer and a sports buff based near Frankfurt. He treasures his cricket tie collection, which dates back to the 1975 World Cup. He co-founded Dresden CC and captained his side to the Bundesliga divisional final in their debut season, taking a 5-for in the semis to upset the reigning champions.