WTC Final: What went wrong for India?
The first edition of the World Test Championship ended last week, with the finale taking place at the Rose Bowl, Southampton. Two deserving teams, New Zealand and India, made it to the finals; however, during the match, New Zealand proved their superiority in those pace-friendly conditions. The match was also extended to a sixth day as the first day and the fourth day were completely washed out, and there were other rain delays.
Due to so many overs lost because of rain, many fans thought that this match might not produce a result even after the sixth day, which would result in the trophy and title being shared between New Zealand and India. However, New Zealand bowlers kept delivering key skills, and their batters maintained the cool to ensure a memorable victory for their team.
In a sense, it is a great redemption story for this team, and their captain Kane Williamson as many of these team members were left heartbroken during the 2019 World Cup Final roughly two years ago. They lost the match by boundary count despite the match ended in a Tie in regular 50 overs and after the Super-Over. It was again a heartbreak by the same team for India as they also lost their Semi-Final against the New Zealand team to be eliminated from the 2019 World Cup.
Mindset plays a major role
Both the teams showed the difference in mindset concerning their team selections. The Kiwis went for a five-prong pace attack to trouble the Indian batters. India went with their regular three pacers and two spinner model. Although the Indian team management had mentioned in the past that they looked to take the condition out of their team selection and other decision making but, in this match, they might have missed another pace bowling option in Mohammed Siraj, who could be included in the pace of one of their spinners.
The batting strength for both the teams looked similar on paper. Still, the New Zealand batters showed more application than their Indian counterparts, which made a difference in the result.
India had a strong start in their first innings as their opening pair took them to a fifty-plus total in the first innings. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, both opening in England for the first time, played balls on their merit and kept the scoreboard moving. However, the New Zealand side kept trying and finally got them out within five overs of each other.
Cheteshwar Pujara adopted an ultra-defensive approach that produced results, but this time put unnecessary pressure on him and Virat Kohli. Pujara played 36 dot balls before opening his account with two back-to-back boundaries. Then he played another 16 dot balls, the last of which was his dismissal by getting leg before wicket off Trent Boult. During the time, Pujara was on the crease, India added just 26 runs in 20.1 overs. It is important to build an innings and bat solidly, but with Pujara, the scoreboard completely stops, and there was hardly any pressure on the opposition bowlers. Over the years, he has played many great knocks for India but unless he changes his mindset and approach slightly and at least look to cash on the easy deliveries, it may become difficult for him to hold on to his place in Test eleven.
Even Virat Kohli is also going through some sort of bad patch as he failed to convert his starts to big scores, which was his trademark in the early part of his career. His elusive 71st international century did not happen in this match, and now he has gone more than a year and a half since his last hundred on the international stage. In both innings, he got the start and went back as an unbeaten batter at the end of the day’s play. However, on both occasions, he lost his concentration the next morning and was the first wicket to fall within the first six overs of the day. For a player of Kohli’s calibre it should be more to do with his mental approach than technique, and the fans would hope that he would get back his form and get the century early in the England series to get his confidence back.
Another area where Indians failed miserably and which made a big difference in the gap in late order batting quality. In both innings, India lost their last four wickets within less than 40 runs (35 in first innings and 28 in second innings), whereas New Zealand bowlers should good application and added 87 runs in the last four wickets in their first innings. In fact, when New Zealand was struggling at 162/2 in their first innings, there was a genuine chance for India to take the lead. However, Kyle Jamison, with his 21 and Tim Southee with 30 made key contributions that impacted the final result. If India could take 20-30 runs lead, it could have been a very different story.
The men who led
Kyle Jamison is a youngster on whom New Zealand cricket should put lots of hope. The tall all-rounder made his debut against the same opposition in early 2020, and since then, enjoys a dream period in international cricket. During this phase, he has picked up 46 wickets in 8 Tests with an astonishing average of 14.17. He already has 5 five-wicket hauls and one instance of taking 10-wickets in a Test match. Even with the bat, he has scored 256 runs with a respectable average of 42.66. After shining in the IPL, his confidence was up, and he delivered a match-winning performance in the World Test Championship Final. Jamison finished with 7-61 in the match, which included 5 for 31 in India’s first innings. He dismissed the Indian captain in both the innings and contributed with a handy 21 off 16 deliveries. He was deservingly the top choice for the Man-of-the-match.
The Credit should also go to Kane Williamson for leading this team well and get the best out of his limited resources. He also played two key knocks and was unbeaten when the experienced Ross Taylor hit the winning runs. His 49 and 52* made him the highest scorer of the match, and for a big part of New Zealand batting in both innings, Kane was there to guide his younger teammates. Williamson is already a very popular figure in world cricket thanks to his nature and smile. He got quite a few more fans with this historic triumph for a country lacking significant ICC glory in their long history.