Rohit Sharma defends the 18th delivery to Ashwin | Cricket

Rohit Sharma’s instincts as a captain are mostly sound. When Arshdeep Singh Riley thought a ball on Rossouw’s back foot was coming down, Sharma hesitated before going for a check. It paid off. But Ravichandran Ashwin’s comeback proved costly when South Africa needed 25 off 18 balls. Ashwin can be amazing in slog-overs, but he stood up to David Miller, who managed to hit him for a six in the 14th over. At the other end was Aiden Markram, who was also against spin. Ashwin was hit for two consecutive sixes and the match was pretty much lost there.

Sharma defended the move and said he was not sure how the spinners had finished in this World Cup final. For context, Pakistan’s left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz conceded 16 runs in the final against India. This must also have influenced Sharma’s decision. “I’ve seen what’s been going on with the spinner lately, so I wanted to go the other way and see if I can finish off Ash and not leave it for the last minute,” Sharma said at the post-match presentation on Sunday.

“I just wanted to make sure the seamers bowled properly, but to be honest, when you have options like that, you have to use them at some point. I thought with the new batter (Tristan Stubbs) coming in, it was a great time for him to bowl. But such cases can happen. Miller also made some good shots.”

It was more or less expected that South Africa would go after Ashwin, given how India had given the task to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. “I think when the Mariners are struggling to get away, our game naturally ends (that way),” Aiden Markram said later in a press conference. “We expected them to accept Keshav. I’m sure they expected us to play against Ashwin because of the nature of the wicket because it was very difficult for the sailors to get away. So it got to the stage where we had to target someone because they were bowling really well at the start before the drinks break, about 10 overs.

“It got to the point where we had to pick someone. It could be anyone on any given night. And sometimes you do. Sometimes it is not. But you choose those matchups based on who you’re up against on the night. You will be faced with different situations and these identities will change completely. It was a debate we had over drinks to pick one of the bowlers, go for it.”

At the halfway point, India had a great chance to win, but Markram (52) and David Miller (59*) had little luck and India also missed catches and runs. “Sometimes you get a green, sometimes you don’t. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be grateful that you’ve had some luck in the game,” Markram said. “If you get that catch, it’s something else,” Bhuvneshwar Kumar said later.

Sharma acknowledged India’s mistakes. “In the last two games we have played well on the pitch and we want to be consistent in this department,” he said. “But unfortunately we didn’t take our chances, we missed a few times, myself included. But we have to raise our heads and think about what’s going to happen to us and learn from this game, what we have to do in games like this.”


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