In the idyllic terrain of Dharamsala, a riveting cricket clash unfolded, pitting India against New Zealand in a contest that demanded the utmost mettle, character, composure, and poise from the Indian team. Mohammed Shami’s extraordinary performance upon his return to the side thwarted the Kiwis from achieving a 300-plus total, an achievement within their grasp during the closing overs. Nonetheless, New Zealand’s 273 runs represented the highest target India had conceded in the World Cup, and they faced a formidable Kiwi bowling attack, necessitating flawless execution to preserve their undefeated streak.
What further bolstered India’s resolve was their winning streak while chasing targets, having emerged victorious in their previous four matches. The intangible confidence derived from successful run-chases cannot be underestimated. It’s a testament to the team’s resilience that, despite the occasional stumble, India has consistently demonstrated an ability to surmount imposing targets, making no pursuit seem insurmountable.
From their initial challenge against Australia in Chennai, where they found themselves three wickets down for two runs, to their subsequent triumphs against Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, India has navigated chase after chase with consummate ease. However, New Zealand presented a stiffer challenge. To secure the vital two points, India had to maintain their focus, for the Kiwis were not willing to concede an inch.
The match seemed to be headed for a routine Indian victory as Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill provided a blazing start. Yet, in a display of resilience, New Zealand fought back, thanks to Lockie Ferguson, who swiftly dismissed both openers within 14 deliveries. India went from 71 without loss to 76 for two in the blink of an eye, encountering their first mini-crisis.
Shreyas Iyer, returning after overcoming back surgery, joined Virat Kohli at the crease. Kohli, often hailed as one of the game’s greatest chasers, carries with him the dual impact of boosting Indian spirits and inducing doubt in the opposition. Iyer, too, displayed his mettle, swiftly amassing boundaries and preventing India from stagnating.
Kohli and Iyer steadied the ship, adding 52 crucial runs, and KL Rahul further supported his former captain with a partnership of 54 runs for the next wicket. At 182 for three, with the required run rate under control, everything seemed rosy until it wasn’t.
Rahul’s dismissal, adjudged leg-before to the admirable Mitchell Santner, and Suryakumar Yadav’s run-out, with Kohli inadvertently contributing to the dismissal, left India at 191 for five, still requiring 83 runs. With Ravindra Jadeja, the last recognized or, rather, the first non-recognized batter, and without the safety net of another batting option, India faced a make-or-break situation.
Neither Kohli nor Jadeja showed signs of panic or nervousness. Instead, an eerie calmness prevailed. They meticulously reconstructed the chase, brick by brick, with a focus on singles and doubles, sprinkled with timely boundaries. Their icy composure radiated throughout the stadium, shattering Kiwi resolve. This was a chase emblematic of a team well-versed in the art of pursuit.
In the tranquil land of the Dalai Lama, their serenity was entirely fitting.