MS Dhoni and his performance and batting positions were some of the most discussed topics in Indian cricket around World Cup 2019, as the veteran came in for a lot of criticism for his display with the bat. His being played at No.7, after Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya, in the semi-final against New Zealand was a massive topic for debate after India lost in the match played over two days. India batting coach Sanjay Bangar has revealed that it wasn't his decision alone to send MS Dhoni to bat at that number seven on July 9.
In the first semifinal which was played over two days due to rain in Manchester, India restricted New Zealand to 239/8 in 50 overs. But chasing the modest 240 for a place in the final, India were blown away by the Kiwi bowlers led by Matt Henry (3/37) on the reserve day.
India lost four top order batsmen for just 24 runs inside 10 overs before Dhoni (50) and Ravindra Jadeja (77) shared a 116-run seventh wicket stand to raise hopes of an unlikely victory. However, it wasn't enough in the end as India fell short by 18 runs and bowed out of the competition.
But Dhoni was sent to bat after Karthik who came in at No. 5 followed by Pandya, raising quite a few eyebrows.
"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," IANS quoted Bangar telling Hindustan Times in an interview.
The batting coach, who took charge in 2014 and has guided the team in 50 Tests and 119 ODIs, insisted that at the start of the World Cup campaign, specific roles were given 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," he 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.
"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," Bangar added.
After India's exit, head coach Shastri had also stated that it was a team decision to send Dhoni at number seven. "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," Shastri had said.
"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," he reasoned.
Bangar also said that like every other Indian, the team was "extremely disappointed with the semi-final exit" but were "proud of the brand of cricket played".
(With IANS inputs)