The mystery over India’s underperformance in ICC events isn’t showing any signs of finding a resolution. For the second time in two consecutive editions, the men from the subcontinent fell at the final hurdle, this time going down to Australia in the title-decider. Two years ago, it was the New Zealand team that had prevented India from bagging the Test mace. The team’s repeated failures on the big stage have even left the critics short of words, with the crux of the story of India’s downfall seeing the team repeating similar mistakes.
There’s arguably no man in the world who studies his opponents the way Ravichandran Ashwin does. The off-spinner has learned from every mistake in his career to make stronger comebacks. A true legend in the Test format, Ashwin had reportedly started preparations for the World Test Championship final during the Indian Premier League. But, when the day of reckoning came, he found himself warming the bench for India’s most important Test match in the last two years.
The Indian team management had its reasons but Ashwin’s absence against a team that had 5 left-handers was beyond baffling. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t digest the fact that India had left Ashwin out of the XI.
Whenever India disappoint in an ICC event, the blame drops hard on the Indian Premier League. Though there’s no denying that the cricketing universe is quickly transitioning into a franchise-based ecosystem, the fact that Indian players had to play the WTC final not long after the conclusion of the T20 league, could’ve played its role.
The likes of Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and a number of other players who were busy playing for their franchises till the business end of the IPL 2023 season struggled for form against a more hungry Australian side.
For Australia, in comparison, the likes of Steve Smith, Travis Head, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and a few others didn’t even feature in the 16th edition of the IPL.
Going forward, Indian players would need to prioritise as WTC finals are likely to be held in June, not long after the conclusion of IPL seasons.
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Virat Kohli, all punched below their weight, scoring a total of 193 runs cumulatively in the match. It was only because of Ajinkya Rahane’s 89 and Shardul Thakur’s 51 in the first innings that India managed to reach a pride-saving total of 296 runs. Barring them, no batter could score a half-century.
In the second innings, the likes of Rohit, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane got off to fine starts but couldn’t convert them to big scores. As former India captain Sourav Ganguly rightly pointed out after the match, the averages of Indian batters have drastically reduced over the last couple of years. The shot selection of some players, including Kohli, is bound to be questioned.
In events like the WTC final, even the big names couldn’t stand up and deliver.