NEW DELHI: Indian cricket fans and pundits on Monday turned on wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni for his poor strike rate in the final overs of his side’s narrow 31-run World Cup loss to England.
Chasing a stiff 338, India clawed their way back into contention needing 71 runs from the last five overs of Sunday’s game at Edgbaston, with the veteran big-hitter Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav at the crease.
But the pair added just 39, scrambling singles and unable to clear the rope, falling short of the target with five wickets remaining and handing India their first loss of the tournament.
The normally explosive Dhoni was unbeaten on 42 off 31 deliveries.
The Times of India pilloried the run-chase as the “Birmingham crawl” – Edgbaston is in the UK’s second city – while Indian social media lit up in outrage at the star’s uncharacteristically sluggish approach.
“Disappointing finish. A run-a-ball partnership can’t win games,” tweeted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle.
“It’s not about winning but it’s about showing the intent to win,” a fan wrote on Twitter.
Former Indian cricket stars were equally unforgiving.
Sanjay Manjrekar called his approach to the last few overs “baffling”, while Saurav Ganguly, a former national team skipper and now a commentator, said he could offer no explanation for his ex-teammate’s tame batting.
The loss handed England a lifeline in their pursuit of a top four finish progress to the semi-finals of a tournament on home soil.
Some fans applauded Dhoni for his slow play in the key final overs — England’s win has made it harder for India’s arch-rivals Pakistan to creep into the final four.
It is the second time this World Cup that Dhoni has come under fire for batting slowly in the slog overs.
Dhoni’s 28 off 52 balls against Afghanistan, prompting criticism from the normally reticent Sachin Tendulkar.
“There was no positive intent,” the batting legend said of his former teammate’s innings.