The going was tough for Team India in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand at Southampton. The batting unit came down like a pack of cards, while the bowling was put under immense pressure, with three out of five bowlers, sharing bulk of the workload. Just about everything that went wrong for the Indians, was taken care of by the Kiwis.
They read the conditions well, were prepared for the match, and also got their team selection right for the final. Even before the match started, just about everyone knew that the Kiwis were going to lift the title, and Indians were going to struggle. In hindsight, there was not just one factor where the Indians lost out, but a combination of factors. If not sorted out at the earliest, India will struggle in the five-Test series against England as well.
Team India, despite getting an extra day to think it through, went in with three pacers, who are not known for their swing, and two spinners. That move proved costly as swing played a big role in the match. Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson troubled the Indians with their swing and the assistance they got from the pitch.
Technically, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah are all hit-the-deck bowlers, and someone like Mohammad Siraj was needed in the playing XI. Moreover, Jadeja was hardly used as a bowler in the match.
The fast-bowling all-rounders are match-winners for any side, but India doesn’t produce many. After a long time they got Hardik Pandya into the team, who too could not take the pressure of the game, and his body broke down too soon. But India missed the trick by not picking Shardul Thakur in the match. The Mumbaikar is visibly fit, and can bat in a dominating fashion, as shown in the Australia series.
Come the England series, he is a must-have in the playing XI, and should be developed into a full-time all-rounder for Tests in future. The onus lies here on the management.
Lean Patch for Pujara & Rahane Continues
Batting proved to be the main difference between the two sides in WTC final. Pujara and Rahane have been struggling to get runs for quite some time now and that is hampering India’s chances. Rahane apart from his ton in Melbourne has been largely ineffective. Meanwhile, Pujara last scored a ton in Australia in Jan 2019.
The fast-bowler is certainly India’s spearhead, and him not getting wickets is always danger sign for the Indians. in the WTC final, he went wicketless and that meant that the bulk of bowling was done by Ishant and Shami. That is not a good start for India, with the England series approaching.
Ton Machine Going Silent
Virat Kohli is perhaps the most important batsman in the line-up. This is of course debatable, but his knack to outplay the opposition through his big tons, was a big plus for India. But Kohli — still scoring consistently — seems to have lost his mojo of scoring centuries. His last Test ton was against Bangladesh in the pink-ball Test in November 2019.