A typical Virat Kohli innings; a late order Hardik Pandya innings; a last gasp Dhoni blitz and a Mohammed Shami seam masterclass combined to dump the West Indies out of the 2019 edition of the World Cup. Here are the main talking points:

Big Brother Is Watching You: “Cricket,” wrote John Arlott, “is a most precarious profession. It is called a team game, but in fact, no one is so lonely as a batsman facing a bowler supported by ten fieldsmen and observed by two umpires to ensure that his error does not go unpunished.” That was then. Today you have the third umpire, the technology-empowered Big Brother, to add to the batsman’s claustrophobia.

At the halfway mark, ‘not out’ was a globally trending topic on social media. During the break, host broadcaster Star lined up a dozen former Indian players who – no surprise – unanimously declared that Rohit Sharma was not out.

It happened in the 6th over. Kemar Roach bowled one just back of a good length on the line of the fourth stump and made it bend into off; a tentative Rohit went half-cock forward and pushed down the first line. The ball jagged back through the gap between bat and pad; the appeal for caught behind was turned down, but upheld on review. And there lies the problem – bat and pad were adjacent; the visuals suggested that the ball nicked the bat’s inner edge and the pad’s knee roll.

Hot-spot showed an incriminating murmur as the ball passed bat. But was it off bat or pad, was the hotly debated question, with the consensus – emphatic in the commentary box, even more emphatic from Rohit Sharma’s wife whose instantaneous reaction was broadcast on loop, and virulent on social media – was that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field umpire.

I think it was out. I think, too, that the problem lies in the way frames are frozen when using the hot-spot. The third umpire asks for one frame at a time. But for clarity on such close ones, showing the entire hot-spot heartbeat from the moment the ball approaches the bat to the moment it passes the batsman would, I suspect, be more useful. From the evidence, I thought the ball nicked bat, then brushed pad – a full line on the hot spot would have helped show two spikes. Or not.

Basics never go out of fashion: Why Sheldon Cottrell, who with the full length found swing at pace to take out two New Zealand wickets in his first over the last time out, would go back to the shorter length is a mystery. Why he didn’t take his cue from his opening partner Kemar Roach is the sort of thing the analyst on the outside can never figure; surely commonsense suggests that bowlers talk to each other?

Cottrell, and an off-color Oshane Thomas, went for 113 in 17 overs. Against that, Roach and Jason Holder, on a pitch that had little or nothing in it for them, bowled at a few clicks under their best pace; they held the line down the channel, the height on the ball calculated to hit the top of the stumps. The results spoke for the efficacy of the old-fashioned virtues of line and length: between them, they bowled 20 overs for 69 runs and took five wickets. Their lengths held the secret – Holder bowled 58% of his deliveries on length in the channel; Roach was even better, bowling 63% on that length and line.

The drip-drip of dots: Old Trafford has biggish boundaries. During the initial powerplay, the bowling side has to defend all that acreage with just two fielders, Between overs 11-40 you have a maximum of four fielders. You would imagine that a great batting side – and everyone keeps saying India is a great batting side – would cash in, judiciously going over the top early to force alterations in field placement and bowlers’ lengths, and then work the singles in the gaps that open up. But no – India seems to adhere to the mantra of batting in second gear till the very end.

There are 300 legitimate deliveries in an innings; in India’s innings, 163 of those went unscored of. Note also that in every phase of play except the death, more than half the deliveries were unscored of.

Commentators are fond of saying that the impact players will “make up” at the death – but you can’t “make up” for missed opportunities, you can merely mitigate some of its negative effects. Put more simply, a six at the death does not “make up” for a maiden in the powerplay.

The Muddle In The Middle: Teams appear to have figured out the key to India’s batting: get two of Rohit, Rahul and Virat out before they settle down to do damage, and expose the weak underbelly of the lineup.

Once Holder, with his almost perfect length, got through the defense of a steady, but not authoritative, KL Rahul, India’s Achilles Heel was exposed. For all the talk of his “talent” – a quality that, till date, is more talked about than displayed – Vijay Shankar in current form looks a misfit at number four, his main problem being that he does not seem unable to rotate strike.

The third wicket partnership was worth 28 runs. Kohli scored 14 off 14. Shankar scored 14 off 19 — which looks ok, till you consider that 12 of Shankar’s runs came off 3 fours. And that means that off the other 16 balls, he managed just 2 singles – the kind of batting that can frustrate the batsman at the other end. Frustration showed, vividly, when the number four nicked off to Roach – Kohli, at the other end, slammed his gloves down on the ground and looked ready to self-combust.

And then there is MS Dhoni, who today came behind Kedar Jadhav in the order. In the last over of the Indian innings, MS began with a six to midwicket off Oshane Thomas; refused two singles; smacked ball four to the long off boundary; played out another dot; then finished the innings with a pulled six over square leg. (Footnote: Thomas bowled three on yorker length; all were dot balls. Why he felt it necessary to bowl the other three short, setting them up for the batsman, only he can tell you). That blitz was typical of the “finisher” we exalt – but the problem lies in what came before.

MS came out to face the last ball of the 29th over; Virat Kohli was out off the second ball of the 38th over. The 57 deliveries of their association produced 40 runs. Virat scored 21 off 25 balls faced; MS 17 off 32 deliveries faced. What statistics don’t show is how often he played a succession of dot balls, took a single off the last ball, then played out more dots while Kohli was marooned at the other end.

Consider this: The 24 balls between overs 35 to 38 produced just 14 runs. This is the phase you are looking to accelerate, to “make up” for a slow start. Holder in the 37th over cost three. Dhoni started that over with a dot, then a single; Kohli took a single next ball; Dhoni played out two dots and took a single off the last ball. Next over, Fabien Allen – who had been comfortably handled in his first spell (5-0-34-0) – started with two dot balls to Dhoni who then took a single off the third; Kohli took one off the fourth; Dhoni played out two dot balls. 12 balls, of which Kohli faced two and scored two while Dhoni faced the other 10 for 3 runs.

That was the sequence leading into the 39th over. Holder’s first ball was superbly picked from outside off to the deep midwicket boundary with the trademark Kohli wristwork; the next ball was a half-tracker that Virat, needing to compensate for the slow run rate, hit out at and found midwicket well inside the circle.

Tell me that the lack of momentum at one end did not contribute to the wicket at the other end (pretty much the same situation prevailed when Hardik Pandya walked out at the fall of Kohli’s wicket), and I’ll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, cheap.

The innings progression highlights the story. At the 30 over mark India, adhering to its mantra of starting slow and keeping wickets in hand, was 148/3 at a run rate of 4.93. At the 40 over mark, India had lost a key wicket (doubly critical because it has the longest tail among the top contenders), added a mere 38, and saw its run rate slip to 4.65.

This is not to make too much of a to-do about any one player, but merely to make the point that reputations don’t win tournaments – performance does. And Dhoni’s current performance, piling up on top of the problems with Shankar and Jadhav, can prove costly at the business end of this tournament — teams such as England, Australia and New Zealand are highly unlikely to give you sit-up balls at the death to “make up”. (In passing, remember the 52-ball 28 against Afghanistan in the previous game? Dhoni could have been gone for 8 off 15 today, if Shai Hope did not, off one ball, twice fumble a stumping with Dhoni so far out of his ground he did not initially even try to get back and then add insult to injury by missing an easy run out at the other end when he finally got the ball in his glove).

The bright spot was Virat Kohli, whose ease of strokeplay mocked the struggles of his mates. Everything that can be said about a Kohli innings has been said umpteen times, so I’ll spare you the panegyrics. The graphic encapsulates the all-round game that got him his fourth successive 50-plus score in this tournament.

In 33 ODI innings thus far, Kohli has scored 1912 runs against the Windies. Only Javed Miandad has scored more (1930 runs), but the Pakistani great took 31 more innings to get there.

When the score was 37, Kohli got to the 20,000-run mark in international cricket. It took him 417 innings to scale this mountain — 36 innings less than Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, who took 453 innings. Enough said?

There’s something about Shami: Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowled beautifully earlier in the tournament. When injury put him on the sidelines, Bhuvi would have expected to walk back in once fully fit.

Good luck with that – Mohammed Shami, on the back of his hat-trick in the previous game, produced a masterclass. He beat both edges of Chris Gayle and turned him inside out, then took him out with a short ball that induced a panicky pull to mid-on. An over later, he produced the classic quick bowler’s delivery – good length just outside off, straight, swinging in late and going through Shai Hope’s attempted drive to hit the top of off.

It was the seam position that had fast bowling greats Michael Holding and Ian Bishop salivating in the commentary box: As it comes out of Shami’s hand, the seam couldn’t be straighter if he had used a plumb-line. What that does is helps with both swing in the air and both-ways movement off the deck.

Collapso Cricket: They used to say of the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies that it did not matter if the batsmen didn’t get runs — whatever they got, their quartet of fast bowlers would get the opposition out for less.

India is now that team. Its score, after winning the toss and batting first, was about 30 runs under par – but it didn’t matter. Shami produced the early magic; Hardik Pandya’s slower ball trapped Ambris in front; Kuldeep teased out Nicholas Pooran; Kohli and Chahal conspired to knock over Jason Holder, with the captain putting a fielder on the edge of the circle at extra cover and asking the bowler to get Holder driving. Yessir, done.

In no mood to let the game drag on, Kohli then turned to Bumrah, who promptly got Brathwaite – at the venue of his heroics in the previous game — nicking off for MS to hold diving to his right. With his very next ball, the pace ace trapped Allen in front.

The story of the Windies implosion can be told through the partnership figures: 10 for the first wicket; six for the second; 55 for the third between Ambris and Pooran; 9 for the fourth; 18 for the fifth; 9 for the sixth; 0 for the seventh… The point is, at no stage were the Windies allowed to get a toe in the door.

It was surgical in its precisionShami made the two crucial incisions (and, just for fun, came back to take out Shimron Hetmyer, the last of the recognized batsmen, and closed the game out with the wicket of Oshane Thomas); his mates ripped through the rest.

With two matches left to play and just three points to their name, the West Indies are out of the tournament. India, with 11 points in six, is the only team to remain undefeated thus far. They have England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka coming up, and even one win in those three puts them in the semis.

Seems like a golden opportunity to work on that middle order before the death matches begin.

PostScript: The cricketing gods have a sense of humor, and they love to rub it in. Rohit Sharma at slip reeled in a sharp catch off last man Oshane Thomas. The on-field umpire’s soft signal was out; on the review, the third umpire overturned it. Sharma’s wry grin said it all.

Related Reads:

  • Cricinfo’s match report makes the related point that Dhoni had a below-par day behind the stumps as well
  • Sambit Bal listens to the music of Kohli’s batting
  • Sharda Ugra on Shami of the surgical strikes

*A version of this article was first published on cricket.com