WTC Final - Team India Report Card: A disaster at Southampton
Eventually it came down to the Indians needing to bat out two sessions of a Test match to be able to share the title, which they could not.
The World Test Championship (WTC) Final was expected to be the pinnacle of achievement for an Indian Test team which has been relentless at home over the past five and a half years and achieved historic successes in Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka. But eventually it turned out to be yet another manifestation of Indian batting's frailties against quality seam and swing bowling.
Rain played a huge part in the game and it could be said that the conditions were heavily in favour of New Zealand due to their experience of playing on such surfaces back home. But eventually it came down to the Indians needing to bat out two sessions of a Test match to be able to share the title, which they could not.
As pointed out several times by members of the commentating team, this was a classic 'David versus Goliath' clash in cricketing terms. India is an established superpower of the game due to its flourishing riches in administration and large pool of players to pick the best sides from. On the other hand, New Zealand are a modest outfit with a couple of genuine world class players, and a solid bunch of professional cricketers who give it their best every time they walk on to a cricket field.
With this defeat, India's barren run in ICC tournaments gets stretched and questions need to be raised about the team's inability to cross the final hurdle at a time when Indian cricket is at its strongest.
Those questions need to be and should be asked and the Indian cricket board and its players should do something to answer them, rather than brushing it under the carpet due to their arrogance. Here is our report card of Team India's dismal performance in the World Test Championship Final
1) Rohit Sharma 34 & 30 - 6/10 - Average
Rohit Sharma looked good for most part of his stays on the pitch in both innings. He curbed his natural instinct to go after deliveries on the up, outside the off stump and played well in the 'V' straight down the ground. But he is still a work in progress as an opener in red ball cricket and that showed in his indecision which led to his dismissals. One of the few bright sparks for the team in the match.
2) Shubman Gill 28 & 8 - 5/10 - Average
He was excellent in the first innings, moving around the pitch to counter movement and playing some exquisite shots. There is a reason why the greats of the game think he is the next big thing of Indian batting. But there are chinks in the armour, especially the incoming delivery, to which he succumbed yet again in the second innings. These chinks need to be ironed out and Gill needs more first class or A team cricket under his belt for that. India must bring back Mayank Agarwal and give Gill more time to prepare himself for the top league.
3) Cheteshwar Pujara 8 & 15 - 1/10 - Extremely Poor
Many would say that asking for Pujara's head is a knee jerk reaction after one defeat but there is a reason behind it. Yes, he brings solidity to the team but Pujara has not scored a century in Test cricket since January 2019. He has scored at an average of less than 30 for the entire span of the WTC. The term'horses for courses' is used for a reason and if your horse isn't able to run the only race he is being groomed to run, he is better inside the stable than being on the ground. Oh yes! the catch of Ross Taylor that he dropped might not have changed the eventual outcome of the match but it should have been caught at this level.
4) Virat Kohli 44 & 13 - 5/10 - Average
Yes, India won a historic Test series in Australia without Virat Kohli and there are other match winners in this team too. But Virat Kohli is India's best batsman, period. While there have been several players who have played their part in India's successes in Test cricket over the past 5 years, Kohli and Ashwin are undeniably the biggest catalysts of that. For long the question was asked, what happens when Kohli's outrageous consistency declines. The time has come to find an answer to that question. India can ill-afford to put the kind of pressure on Kohli that Sachin Tendulkar faced between 1994 to 1998.
5) Ajinkya Rahane 49 & 15 - 4/10 - Below Average
Rahane played a sublime knock in MCG to start India's rearguard on that tour and has been duly feted for the same. But his inconsistency just keeps growing and the time has come for India to look for a more consistent number 5. Yes, he has been India's highest scorer in the WTC but Rahane for long has done just enough to survive in the team. India need a lot more than that. The way he got out in both the innings says a lot about the state in which his batting is — tentative at all times!
6) Rishabh Pant 4 & 41 - 3/10 - Poor
There is a difference between aggression and absurdity. Rishabh Pant needs to be made to understand that. MS Dhoni had the license and the ability to go after the bowling all through his Test career, but he did keeping the match situation in mind. Pant just doesn't get that and it hurts the team every time he bats without responsibility. If the team management wants him to continue like this then it is them who should be held accountable for the circus that was on display when Pant batted in the second innings.
7) Ravindra Jadeja 16 & 15 and 1 wicket - 4/10 - Below Average
He should not have played this match after the rains arrived a day before the start of the Test. He did the best of what he could with his abilities and there isn't much that could be said about his performance. India should have opted for an extra batsman or a pacer. But well, a decision once made cannot be gone back on it seems.
8) Ravichandran Ashwin 22 & 7 and 4 wickets - 7/10 - Good
Ashwin added important runs down the order in the first innings and provided the breakthrough in both innings when conditions were supposed to be aiding fast bowlers. He remains, without an iota of doubt, India's biggest match winner in Test cricket.
9) Mohammed Shami 4/76 & 0/31 - 7/10 - Good
The pick of the bowlers in the first innings and the man who gets little due for the majestic work he has been putting in over the years. Mohammed Shami is never considered the leader of the pace attack but he has been the difference between victory and loss in so many matches. His natural ability to swing and seam the ball is an asset. Only if he would have found the 'right' length a little earlier in the first innings
10) Ishant Sharma 3/48 & 0/21 - 7/10 - Good
India's most experienced Test cricketer bowled with a lot of purpose and verve in the first innings. He picked up important wickets and kept India in the game. But Ishant needs to work on getting the tailenders out as it hurt the team yet again.
11) Jasprit Bumrah 0/57 & 0/35 - 2/10 - Poor
It is not easy to suddenly hit the groove as a fast bowler but experience and years of practice and nets should make that happen. Also, the occasion warranted a better performance from a man who is being seen as an idol for the upcoming generation of Indian pacers. Bumrah looked off the boil from his very first over in the match and he failed to hit the right length throughout. He should have had a wicket to show for his efforts but Pujara couldn't hold on to the chance. He needs to reset and reboot for the upcoming 5 Tests against England.
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