India fell “30-40 runs short” of a good total in the final, but it wasn’t because of a safety-first approach in the middle overs – that’s the line Rahul Dravid took in the wake of his team’s defeat to Australia in the 2023 World Cup title bout in Ahmedabad.
“I won’t agree that we played with fear. We had 80 runs in ten overs. We had lost wickets, and when you lose wickets you have to change your strategy,” Dravid said at the post-match press conference.
Rohit Sharma‘s 31-ball 47 had set India on their way, with the team reaching 80 at the end of the first powerplay. But they only managed four boundaries in the rest of their innings to eventually finish on 240. Dravid attributed the slowdown to the loss of wickets at regular intervals, and not a lack of intent.
“We haven’t played any fearful cricket in this final. In the middle overs, they bowled really well and we had lost three wickets. So a period of consolidation was needed, and every time we thought we could get on the attack, we would lose a wicket,” he said. “If you lose wickets, you have to rebuild. We didn’t set out to play defensively.”
While Australia eventually coasted to the target with seven overs to spare and six wickets in hand, Dravid reckoned the game would have played out differently had India got 30-40 more runs on a surface he believed was tougher to bat on in the afternoon.
“Just felt like the ball was stopping in the afternoon a little bit more than it did in the evening,” he said. “It felt like the ball came on to the bat a lot better in the evening. There was that period where the ball was stopping and we weren’t able to get boundaries. We were able to rotate the strike but we weren’t able to get those boundaries.
“If we had got to 280-290 and they were 60 for 3 then it might have been a very different game. But 240, I think they were always one partnership away from getting there.”
“There was a lot of emotions in that dressing room. It was tough to see as a coach, because I know how hard these guys have worked, what they’ve put in, the sacrifices they’ve made. But that’s sport. It can happen”
“I’ve been involved in three… and I think we haven’t played really well on the day,” Dravid said. “I thought we were a bit short in Adelaide, in the semi-final [of the T20 World Cup, against England]. We lost the first day in the World Test Championship [final]. We didn’t bowl particularly well after Australia were three down. And here we didn’t bat well enough.
“There’s not one particular reason you can pin it down to. I didn’t feel at any stage going into this game that there were any nerves or the guys were intimidated by the game. I thought the energy and the mental space the boys were in leading into this particular game was spot on.”
Dravid, whose two-year contract as head coach runs out this month, heaped praise on Rohit for his leadership and his batting throughout the World Cup.
“I think he has been an exceptional leader, always felt he’s led this team fantastically well,” Dravid said. “He’s given so much of his time and energy in the dressing room to the boys. There’s been a lot of planning, a lot of strategy, he’s always committed to those things.
“His batting as well, I thought it was fantastic the way he set the tone for us. We knew that we wanted to play a certain way, we wanted to play a positive, attacking brand of cricket, and he was very committed to doing that. He wanted to lead by example, and I thought right throughout the tournament he was superb. Can’t speak more highly of him, as a person and a leader.”
Dravid, who had made the walk towards the press-conference room even as Australia were being handed their winners’ medals, admitted that emotions were running high in the Indian dressing room.
“There was a lot of emotions in that dressing room. It was tough to see as a coach, because I know how hard these guys have worked, what they’ve put in, the sacrifices they’ve made,” he said. “But that’s sport. That happens. It can happen. And the better team won on the day. I’m sure the sun will come up tomorrow morning.
“We’ll learn from it, we’ll reflect, and we’ll move on. That’s what you do as sportsmen. You have some great highs in sport, and you have some lows in sport. And you keep moving on. You don’t stop.”