Manchester: Former India opener Kris Srikkanth said overcast conditions on the reserve day of the first semifinal helped New Zealand bowlers as they scripted a 18-run win over title favourites India in the World Cup here on Wednesday.
In the rain-hit semifinal played over two days, New Zealand scored 239/8 in 50 overs after opting to bat. Kane Williamson (67) and Ross Taylor (74) formed the bedrock of their innings.
In reply, India lost four top order batsmen for just 24 runs inside 10 overs before Ravindra Jadeja (77) and Dhoni (50) shared a 116-run seventh wicket stand to raise hopes for an unlikely victory. However, it wasn't enough in the end as India fell short by 18 runs.
"I think because of the rain and the match getting spilt over to a second day, that was in my opinion one of the root causes for the defeat as far as India is concerned," Srikanth wrote in his column for the ICC.
"The rain and the overcast conditions on the second day meant the wicket helped New Zealand more than India as it was ideal for the bowlers," he added.
Srikkanth heaped praise on Kiwi bowlers despite a 116-run seventh-wicket stand between Dhoni and Jadeja."If you look at the first three wickets and ask if it was bad batting or good bowling from New Zealand, I would say it was fantastic bowling by New Zealand.
"All those first three wickets, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, were outstanding international wicket-taking deliveries and got rid of players who were in brilliant form.
"They literally finished off the backbone of the Indian side and then there was a good fightback, hats off to MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, especially Jadeja in just his second game of the World Cup.
"He really made a fantastic fight out of it, he made it a brilliant game. He almost won the match alongside Dhoni and his all-round performance was brilliant for the entire match.
"His bowling was fantastic, great batting and great fielding, but he cannot do it on his own and unfortunately, he was left with too much to do in the end." Srikanth, who was part of India's 1983 World Cup winning team, also opined that India need a young No.5 batsman, though not talking about whether Dhoni should retire or not.
"We're still struggling to get the right middle order combination. Rishabh Pant is good but at number five we need to find someone as we've tried too many people there.
"We've tried Dinesh Karthik, we've tried Jadeja, we've tried Vijay Shankar, three guys have been tried and they've not proved useful so maybe we can find a good youngster for No.5." Srikanth also lauded Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson.
"I have to give great credit to Kane Williamson's captaincy. One thing about New Zealand's batting and bowling approach, they played to their strengths and limitations.
"That's why when they were batting they didn't play the big shots as they knew they only had their two main batsmen in Williamson and Ross Taylor, they just wanted to hang around.
"They knew if those two could stay in and they could get near 250, they could make a match out of it and they ended up winning the match and reaching the final.
"The way Williamson rotated his bowlers in particular was amazing. Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme were the weak links in the bowling but he made sure they were not too exposed.
"He rotated them around well and because of the early wickets, their limitations were not exposed. I also thought Mitchell Santner bowled brilliantly, but India gave him too much respect."
Srikanth also felt Indian batsmen should have played more aggressively in their approach against left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, who returned with impressive figures of 2/34.
"They should have played more positively against Santner. When I say positively, that doesn't mean hitting out, it's showing some sort of positivity against Santner, putting him under pressure.
"At that point in the innings, the run rate started slowly climbing up, and that's what put pressure on the Indian's towards the end. India were in control before the rain came though."