London: Indian captain Virat Kohli is as articulate and polished with words as he is with the bat. His candid and composed approach while responding to questions before and after a match means he is able to duck a tough question during a press conference after a defeat as big as the one against Pakistan in the finals with a convincing answer. But whether that convincing sounding answer is actually convincing or not is open to interpretation.
So, when CricketNext asked the Indian captain whether the decision to play two spinners on a flat Oval track backfired, he answered, "Not at all. We created a combination after the loss against Sri Lanka. We didn't want to be too predictable from there on in the tournament, and two spinners together did a good job for us. I have no regrets in playing the combination that we played today, and we have stuck to the same ever since we lost to Sri Lanka, so I have no feelings otherwise about the combination."
Dear captain, playing Ashwin against a South African batting line-up with three left-handers and given their past poor record against spinners was a necessity and it was great that the think tank decided to make the required change for an important match. Ashwin repaid the faith shown in him by bowling a tight spell against the Proteas.
But sub-continental teams are known to be good players of spin, and the ease with which Bangladeshi batsmen tackled the off-spinner in the semi-final was sign enough of what was to expect in the final on an equally flat, if not more, track at the Oval.
Also, after the victory over Pakistan in Birmingham, when asked how difficult was it to keep Ashwin out of the playing XI, Kohli had said that the decision to play three frontline pacers against Pakistan was taken keeping the opposition in mind.
So, the question remains, didn't playing two spinners in the final against the same opposition backfire?
Umesh Yadav's pace would have definitely come in handy on a wicket like this one. Umesh was India's most successful bowler in the tournament opener against Pakistan at Birmingham. Add to that the fact that apart from Jasprit Bumrah, who had a bad day in office, the other two medium pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, went for under six runs an over.
Some might argue that raising questions against team selection is easier in hindsight, but the point is that you revisit a 'supposed' mistake only after things don't work out.
Also, during the course of the opening partnership between Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman, it was clearly evident that both batsmen had a problem with the short pitched delivery. Centurion Fakhar Zaman faced trouble hooking and pulling short pitched deliveries even at Hardik Pandya's pace. Umesh Yadav is quite a few yards faster than Pandya and would have definitely created trouble for the Pakistani batsmen had he been picked.
Having said that, India were actually beaten by an inspired opposition, who were motivated to show the world and their own supporters that they can beat India in an ICC tournament and that too at as big a stage as the final.
India's performance in the tournament though has established once again that they are a powerhouse in global cricket. But for them to rise up from the bunch and become the best in the business, there are still a few gaps that need to be filled.