The writing had already been on the wall after the opening defeats against Pakistan and New Zealand had sucked the life out of India's qualifying hopes in the T20 World Cup. A 10-wicket and 8-wicket collapse on wickets where winning the toss proved to be a decisive factor threatened to knock India out of the T20 World Cup a week back. Now, following New Zealand's routine win over Afghanistan, that has been confirmed.
The Men in Blue did pull things back with two spectacular victories over Afghanistan and Scotland in the meanwhile but even by that point, their fate was no longer in their hands. After the latest win against Scotland which followed the same pattern as the one against Afghanistan – decisive, convincing, and attained with a gigantic margin – did spark embers of hope that a qualifying berth was still for the taking.
But in order for that to happen, India had to find solace in Afghanistan who were battling for qualification as well. The idea was simple: Afghanistan needed to defeat New Zealand but not by a wide margin for India to capitalize on it and book their tickets for the semi-final.
It didn't take long for the faint glimmer of hope of a billion Indians to evaporate as the Kiwi bowlers got into their groove pretty early in the match. They snuffed out the Afghan openers quite easily and left them reeling after the first few overs. Although Najibullah Zadran proved to mount a significant resistance – his knock of 73 runs is the highest scored by an Afghan in the T20 World Cup – it wasn't enough to amend the horrific start the team got with the bat.
Chasing a simple score of 125, New Zealand were on top of the run chase from the very beginning and didn't suffer from too many slip-ups. A Mujeeb ur Rehman here, a Rashid Khan wicket there was all the Afghans had to show for their efforts with the ball but to be fair to the bowlers, the score simply wasn't big enough anyway.
Devon Conway pushed Gulbadin Naib's slower ball to long on for a single and ended up breaking Afghan and Indian hearts at the same time. The Black Caps now join Pakistan as the two semi-finalists from Group 2 of the T20 World Cup.
Virat Kohli's last assignment in charge of the team in the shortest format of the game has ended in a nightmare. One can only hope for a fresh beginning all over again and a better performance in the World Cup next year.