World Test Championship: Commitment Dwarfed Flamboyance

Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*

Talent, flamboyance, glamour, and publicity blitzkrieg do not win. It is perseverance, commitment, planning, hard labour, application depending on the situation, desire to perform, and excel help to win not only matches but help to achieve success in any sphere of life. This is the moral lesson from New Zealand’s astounding victory over India in the inaugural World Test Championship final at Ageas Bowl in Southampton. India’s admired superstars failed to blaze as New Zealand’s astute, classy skipper Kane Williamson deservingly walked away with the inaugural World Test Championship title after a composed eight-wicket win in the final that exposed numerous frailties, vulnerabilities in Virat Kohli’s team.

The star-studded Indian team was vanquished by New Zealand having dedicated, enthusiastic and steadfast captain and players. New Zealand won because she had made a plan to win. India lost because she had no preparation and played like to lose. Nobody can help when a team tries to lose or doesn’t utilise its talent in the best possible manner. The crowning moment for Williamson and his men, who continue to win hearts with their fearless but meek, docile approach to the game, will assuage the heartbreak of losing the 2019 ODI Word Cup final to England in contentious circumstances.

If compared, the India team is far better than New Zealand. But commitment made all difference. It may be noted that while New Zealand just could not compete in the bouncy tracks of Australia and was beaten by Australia 0-3 margin, India had vanquished Australia by 2-1 margin in Australia with its second-ranking players. Here’s a look at the journey of both teams in the Test Championship. India’s 13th consecutive Test series victory at home also secured their place in the June final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand. India has been the most consistent and successful team in the WTC so far with 12 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw from the 17 Tests they played since August 2019.

Along the way, India won Test series against West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh, and England at home while their only overseas triumph during this time came in Australia to consolidate their top position in the WTC points table. India is the only team to go past the 500-point mark in the competition and the only team to register 12 wins. India’s only series loss in the World Test Championship came in New Zealand last year when they went down by 10 and 7 wickets in the matches at Wellington and Christchurch in February 2020.

New Zealand reached the ICC World Test Championship final by remaining unbeaten at home and winning two series away from home. It was not a very promising start to their campaign as New Zealand succumbed to a six-wicket defeat in their very first Test of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC), losing the series opener to Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium. However, New Zealand bounced back in the series in spectacular fashion with an innings thrashing of their hosts in Colombo. But in the next tour of Australia, New Zealand not only lost the series 0-3 but the margins of defeats were big as well.

When India toured New Zealand, Kiwis beat India by a 2-0 margin. There was the emergence of great bowler Kyle Jamieson. New Zealand hosted West Indies in late 2020 and beat them 2-0 in the two-Test series. New Zealand next welcomed Pakistan for a two-match Test series and beat Pakistan by a 2.0 margin. With Australia losing 1-2 to India in a four-match series, the path was cleared for NZ to qualify for the WTC final. Prior to the Test Championship final, New Zealand played two Tests against England in England, winning the series 1-0. However, that was not a part of the WTC. But that helped New Zealand to discover world-class left-handed opening batsman Devon Conway and ascertain the best bowling and batting combination.

The main reason for India’s defeat in the ICC World Test Championship final is that India played in a venue that is akin to home condition for New Zealand. England’s condition favours batsmen when the sky is clear but favours swing bowling when weather is cloudy, and the sky is overcast. New Zealand players batted when the weather was more favourable to them. Further, India did not have any practice matches to know the best combination and adapt to England pitches while New Zealand played two test matches. Indian cricket board needs to answer this.

When England condition favours swing bowling, India did not select its best swing bowlers Bhubaneswar Kumar and Deepak Chahar who can bat too. India did not have a fast-bowling all-rounder like Hardik Pandya. Having two spinners in England condition is a sheer wastage. India did not have left-arm fast bowler and more left-handed batsmen to unsettle batsmen and bowlers. Why players who performed well in Australia like Mohammed Siraz, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar were dropped? The batting average of Sundar is 66.25 in 4 test matches, higher than many top batsmen of the world in similar stage. He can be selected as a batsman too.

India had not learned anything from its toothless performance in the Test series against New Zealand when Virat Kohli and his men went down. The pace battery of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami had failed historically. The batsmen had struggled. India should have planned how to tackle New Zealand in the final in a condition akin to that of New Zealand. Overconfidence cost the match. We don’t have a spinner, who can turn the ball and rip through batting lines of opposition on a foreign pitch

Our bowler failed to swing the ball the way the New Zealand bowler did. Jamieson of New Zealand bowled exceedingly well. Our number one bowler not only struggled but remained wicketless. The reason may be that he was requiring more practice matches to get back the rhythm. Too much experimentation by Indian bowlers allowed New Zealand to score rapidly in the second innings. In the first inning when the old ball was doing damage and New Zealand batsmen including the skipper were struggling to get a run, Kohli introduced a new ball that gave more runs too. Further allowing Jadeja, who never posed any threat, before the second new ball allowed New Zealand batsmen to settle easily and attack the new ball.

The task in front of India’s batting line-up on the 6th day was not beyond their reach. The plan should have been to bat as normally as possible, kill time, score without taking a risk. One good session with the bat is all that they needed to share the World Test Championship title with New Zealand. Instead, their indecisiveness cost them the crown. When Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara began the day, they didn’t try to be defensive or show intent for early runs. However, on a pitch where there was still lateral seam movement, they needed to show better application and discipline, both of which were missing on the day. That was the case with the entire batting unit right through the WTC cycle.

Most of our frontline batsmen not only failed miserably but also their vulnerabilities against swing ball were exposed. Many got out playing reckless shots or unable to judge the degree of swings by New Zealand bowler. Cheteshwar Pujara was not able to play the way he plays long innings like Rahul Dravid. Probably, it is high time to retire to give way to youngsters. Shubman Gill needs to introspect because he is unable to repeat the performance of the Australia tour.

Kohli has to learn technique, patience from Williamson. Flamboyance, talent is not enough, application and performing in a crucial time is the hallmark of a great player. Rishabh Pant tried to swing over mid-wicket attempted reverse-scoop, failed to connect properly, and got out unnecessarily. He could have helped his team to draw the match and become hero again had he played half an hour more. And this was possible too. He must learn when to dominate bowlers and when to respect bowlers; when to play for a win and when to play for a draw. At that time, he and the Indian team should have played for a draw. But they played without planning. A little bit of application by Indian batsmen could have easily drawn the Test.

Neil Wagner, who was charging in at Jadeja, peppered the southpaw with short-pitched bowling. He continuously bowled negative line to Jadeja in the second innings to deprive him of scoring runs. Why Indian bowlers did not apply the same method in the second innings? Had Indians bowled like this, they could have saved more runs and put pressure on New Zealand batsmen to go in for a wrong shot. Indians also dropped two crucial catches. In the second innings, while batting and bowling, Kohli’s captaincy was poor. In the second innings of New Zealand, all five bowlers were was not one day match as there will be restrictions on the number of overs to be bowled by a bowler. See the bowling figures: Ishant 6.2-2-21-0, Shami 10.5-3-31-0, Bumrah 10.4-2-35-0, Ashwin 10-5-17-2, Jadeja 8-1-25-0. Why Ashwin despite being economical and taking two wickets was not given more overs? He should have bowled from one end while fast bowlers should have bowled alternatively.

India could have drawn this match easily with little planning and application. In order to draw, there was a need to kill time too. But Indians played in such a way that they were chasing a target. When Pant started playing the rash shots, why was he not cautioned? Had he remained on crease for 5 to 6 over, the match would have ended in a draw. For India, it was a lost opportunity to become the first team to win all ICC-sanctioned tournaments. On this day in 2013, India won the Champions Trophy to make it a treble, after lifting the ODI World Cup twice in 1983 and 2011, T20 World Cup in 2007. This is the first major trophy for New Zealand after their Champions Trophy win in 2000. In that final too, the Black Caps defeated India, by four wickets in Nairobi.

Virat Kohli had a chance to create history as a captain but it could not happen. Not only this, Virat Kohli once again missed out on winning the ICC trophy. Kohli has scored a hat-trick of losing the ICC trophy. This is the third time in a row that Team India lost in the captaincy of Virat after reaching the ICC trophy. Virat’s losing streak in the ICC trophy as the captain started from the year 2017. It lost to Pakistan in the final of Champions Trophy 2017. In the semi-final match of the world cup 2019 played in Manchester, India also lost to New Zealand. By the way, let us tell you that India has missed out on winning the ICC trophy for the fifth time in a row. India lost in the final of the T20 World Cup 2014, lost in the semi-finals of the 2016 T20 World Cup, and then lost in the Champions Trophy 2017, ICC World Cup 2019 and now the World Test Championship.

Commitment of Kane Williamson dwarfed the flamboyance of Kohli. It is certainly, conditions, toss, and weather favoured New Zealand, but inclement weather also gave chance to India to draw the match. Apart from skipper Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson Devon Conway made all difference. All New Zealand players played as a team with captain leading from front. It is humiliating, the way India lost. If you don’t win crucial matches/tournaments, then you are a poor captain. Winning matches is not the same as winning a tournament/championship. Kohli failed in all such important tournaments. Kohli needs to be stripped of captaincy for careless approach and failing to lead the team in a proper way. No individual is above the team.



The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.

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