This is not the time to hold back. India’s shyness and obvious lack of preparation against Australia in the World Test Championship final were embarrassing. The administration of the Team India squad is unable to explain this loss. Where did everything go wrong for a team that was so proud of their performance in Test cricket?
Last week’s meek surrender at The Oval should serve as a stark reminder that Team India needs to rebuild its structure and replace the pillars that supported the old one. Although they lack a chairperson, the Indian selectors must consider the big picture and make some tough decisions. It is important for them to trust their instincts and take risks.
What went wrong for Team India at the WTC Final 2023?
It was a horror show. A pitch that could trouble the best of batters, Rohit Sharma won the toss, decided to bowl, and left out R Ashwin. Meanwhile, Australia raced away to a huge first-inning total of 469. Only Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, and Shardul Thakur showed any signs of fighting in India’s top order.
The same group of batters played in the WTC 2021 championship match versus New Zealand. They had to bat out for time on Day 6 back then. However, they lost after going from 64/2 overnight to 170 all out. There was a similar fall in London as well. The likelihood also raised a crucial question: Have Rohit Sharma and company improved or are they still at the same level as before?
This has nothing to do with the captaincy of Rohit Sharma, a misguided drive by Virat Kohli, a fumbling effort by Cheteshwar Pujara, or a missed conversion by Ajinkya Rahane. It’s about anticipating the passage of time and checking whether these seniors, all veterans and outstanding representatives of Indian cricket, will be our best prospects when the WTC final is played at Lord’s in two years. Will they even succeed the next time?
So, what next for Team India in Test Cricket?
The Top Order needs a Resurrection
Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, and even Virat Kohli have been the pillars of the Indian batting lineup for years. But their recent records in white ball cricket have been below average.
Former India coach Ravi Shastri believes that key players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane approach the conclusion of their Test careers. Thus, Team India needs to begin putting succession plans in place.
Shastri made his remarks following India’s loss to Australia in the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final, in which all of the senior batsmen outside Rahane struggled. India lost in this WTC final for the second time in a row.
“That’s what the think-tank and the selectors will have to sit and see, draw a plan, have the vision to see how you replenish your squad. Australians are very good at doing that over the years. They see where they want to be in three years. They don’t wait for suddenly five players to go away from the side,” Shastri told Star Sports.
Experts and supporters have called for the inclusion of young players on the Test side because the 2025 World Test Championship final is slated for that year.
It’s not only a matter of age, either. But given how frequently the top order has failed, it is tough to believe that the talented Indian cricket scene won’t be able to find replacements. Since Abhimanyu Easwaran is competing, Devdutt Padikkal is calling, Yashasvi Jaiswal is banging on the door, Ruturaj Gaikwad has been around, and this is just the tip of the talent iceberg.
The Wicketkeeper-Batsman Dilemma
There were discussions of India playing Ishan Kishan in the World Test Championship final as a specialist wicketkeeper-batter. But the BCCI management decided to stick with Bharat. There were enough cues during Team India’s net session before the final to conclude that Bharat is the best option. Ishan was only ever observed performing his routine batting drills; he never trained while wearing gloves or gear.
Bharat played in the World Test Championship final and displayed exceptional keeping skills with a few great grabs. His DRS calls were also accurate. But once more, it was his batting that fell short. He looked uncomfortable as he was doused with the short-pitch deliveries on a spicy Oval pitch.
In Rishabh Pant, India has a mixture of both, a solid gloveman and a match-winner with the bat. India recruited Bharat for the Border-Gavaskar Test series and the WTC final after Pant sustained an injury.
Taking a page from England’s Bazball, the BCCI management is debating whether to play Ishan Kishan ahead of KS Bharat for the first Test match against the West Indies. The match will start on July 12 in Dominica.