It’s time to move forward from the World Test Championship defeat. In my pre-match analysis of the teams, I had said that New Zealand had a slight edge, because:1. Their openers were better equipped to bat out England 2. Their pace attack was comparatively better.
To add to this, New Zealand had a two-test warm-up series in England. This helped them get acclimatized and discover their best combination for the final. The only area where India had the clear advantage was in the spin department. Ashwin and Jadeja were far better than Ajaz Patel, the Mumbai-born left arm spinner who plays for Yorkshire. But the rain, the weather and the pitch ensured that they had minimal impact. Ashwin did take 4 wickets in the match, but Jadeja went wicketless. New Zealand did not even bother to include Patel in the playing eleven.
One more thing which went against India is Bumrah’s lack of luck or form. He had not been that effective after his back surgery. In the final, he didn’t take a single wicket and was out for zero in both innings.
This may have been the first test overseas in which he went wicketless. He needs to find his mojo quickly if India are to do well in tests abroad.
The decisive factor which tilted the scales in favour of the Kiwis was their lower order. Throughout the WTC, the New Zealand lower order had scored more runs per wicket than any other team. In the 1st innings in the final, India’s last 3 wickets put together 12 runs. Their last 5 wickets scored 61 runs. For the Kiwis, these figures were 57 runs and 114 respectively.
India were effectively playing with three No 11 batsmen – Bumrah, Ishant and Shami. This is the reason why Siraj was not included in the team as a fourth pacer. It would have weakened the batting considerably. The only other option was to include Thakur, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that his bowling is not test class, despite his heroics at the Gabba where he took 7 wickets in the match and scored a 50 in the 1st innings. So Thakur was left out of the squad of fifteen.
In hindsight, the omission of Bhuvneshwar Kumar from the touring party could have cost India the title. His swing bowling could have been lethal in the match. Also, he can bat effectively. He has explicitly stated that he is ready to play tests, but it seems the Indian think-tank want him to prove his fitness in limited overs cricket first.
The match could have been much closer if there had been bright sunshine and no moisture in the pitch to aid the speed merchants. India’s spinners would then have had an opportunity to come into play in the second half of the match. But it is no use talking about what if scenarios. The team that adapted best to the situation on the ground won the day.
There is a month for Shastri and Kohli to prepare for the series against England. A bad outcome there could leave question marks over Kohli’s captaincy. With the bat, he is going through a relatively lean patch by his standards. When he is in form, he carries the team with him. Now his high scores are not that frequent, and his centuries have dried up. He still has a good batting average, but it has come down.’ During the World Test Championship, it has been in the low 40s. The other batsmen have to rally around and ensure that the the team gets a score which the bowlers can defend. Hopefully by September Kohli will become the first Indian captain to win a test series in both Australia and England.
By Paramdeep Rathee