Virat Kohli admitted India had paid the price for “45 minutes of bad cricket” as the heart-broken skipper surveyed the wreckage of his side’s stunning World Cup exit.
Kohli’s team crashed to an unexpected 18-run defeat against New Zealand in the semi-finals at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Needing just 240 to reach Sunday’s final, two-time champions India were undone by a dismal start to their run chase.
Unable to cope with the pace bowling of Matt Henry and Trent Boult, India were reduced to 5-3, 24-4 and 92-6 before their Ravindra Jadeja-inspired late revival set up a tense finale that ultimately fell short.
Kohli was one of the India stars to flop as he was dismissed for one alongside Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who also only managed a single each.
“We’ve played outstanding cricket throughout this tournament. To just go out on the basis of 45 minutes of bad cricket is saddening,” Kohli told reporters.
“It breaks your heart also, because you worked so hard throughout the tournament to build momentum, you finish number one in the table, and then a spell of bad cricket and you’re out of the tournament.
“New Zealand deserves a lot of credit because they really put up a great display of how to bowl with the new ball. They hit perfect line and length and forced us to make errors.”
Kohli felt India had taken a huge step towards the final when they restricted New Zealand to 239-8 at the conclusion of the Black Caps’ rain-interrupted 50 overs -- with the match carried over from Tuesday due to the bad weather.
“We got what we needed to get in the field this morning and we thought we had restricted them to a total that is chaseable on any surface. But the way they bowled in that first half an hour was the difference in the game,” he said.
Insisting India weren’t fazed by having to return to Old Trafford to finish the match on the reserve day, Kohli added: “It was fine having to come back today. We had a good day yesterday and I’m very proud of that effort. Then it was a professional effort with the ball this morning and we had the momentum.
“But credit to the New Zealand bowlers, the way they bowled with the new ball, moving it around, it was an outstanding skill level on display and they made life very difficult for our batsmen.”
New Zealand paceman Matt Henry was the wrecker-in-chief as he sent the in-form Sharma trudging back to the pavilion in his very first over.
Trent Boult got Kohli trapped lbw to rattle the famed Indian top-order and set the tone for the underdogs’ victory.
Jadeja and MS Dhoni put on 116 runs for the seventh wicket to repair the damage, but their wickets spelt the end for the pre-tournament favourites.
Kohli insisted it was just a rare bad day at the office for India, who had finished the group stage in first place with seven wins from nine games before their disappointing semi-final exit.
“We are sad but not devastated. Because the kind of cricket we played in this tournament, we know where we stood as a team,” Kohli added.
“Today we were not good enough. That’s the nature of the tournament, one bad day at this stage and you are out of this tournament.”