Another big championship, another loss. Widely regarded as one of the best Indian Teams ever, the Virat Kohli-led team is stumbling at the final hurdle — repeatedly.
Going by Kohli’s immediate reaction, heads are set to roll.
“Right people who have the right mindset to perform” will have to be brought in after a reassessment,” said the captain after the loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final.
The Indian captain did not take any names but expressed his displeasure at some players for not showing enough “intent” to score runs.
For instance, senior batsman Cheteshwar Pujara managed 8 off 54 balls in the first innings and consumed 35 balls for his first run. He then scored just 15 runs off 80 balls in the second essay. In the end, New Zealand chased down a 139-run target without much trouble.
“We will continue to reassess and continue to have conversations around what are the things required to strengthen our side and not follow or fall prey to certain patterns,” Kohli said.
It can be safely assumed that some of the seniors will be on borrowed time and only a stellar performance in the five-Test series against England in August can secure their futures.
“We will not wait for a year or so and have to plan ahead. If you see our white-ball team now, we have great depth and guys are ready and confident. The same thing needs to be done with Test cricket. “You have to reassess and replan and understand what dynamics work for the team and how we can be fearless. Bring in the right people who have the right mindset to perform,” the skipper added.
For the current management, a 50 off 80 balls is of more value than a 15 off 80 which can put unnecessary pressure on batsmen coming after someone with an ultra-defensive mindset.
Kane Williamson scored seven runs in a session during the first innings but when it mattered, he scored a half-century of 80-odd balls during the final session of the Test match.
“I think evolving with the game and improving yourself with the game is very important and when you have been a top side for few years in a row, you don’t want to suddenly drop your standards. We will certainly take those decisions and have those conversations and in near future,” the skipper looked visibly hurt.
Need to find ways to score runs
He also spoke about finding ways to score runs against quality attacks like that of New Zealand. India scored only 217 in the first innings and was all out for 170 in the second effort. “We definitely need to work out better plans on understanding how to score runs. We have to stay in sync with the momentum of the game and not let the game drift away too much. I don’t think there are any technical difficulties as such,” he asserted.
“It’s more down to game awareness and being braver in putting bowlers under pressure and not allowing them to bowl in similar areas for longer periods of time unless it is absolutely overcast and ball swinging all over the place like it happened on day 1.”
“You cannot be too worried about getting out as your bringing the bowler into the game completely. If as a batting unit, we put 300 on the board, it’s a different kind of pressure on the opposition with the kind of bowlers we have. Kohli urged his batsmen to take calculated risks and strike a balance between well-timed strokeplay and holding an end.
Pant’s approach is right
Rishabh Pant’s aggressive approach did not yield results but his repeated attempts to charge down the track against pacers and missing the swinging deliveries raised questions about his game awareness.
The skipper, however, seemed fine with his intent to score rather than looking to survive.
“Rishabh is definitely going to be an expressive player whenever he gets an opportunity…he assesses it really well and when things don’t come off, you can say error in judgement, which is acceptable in sport,” the skipper said.
“But we don’t want him to lose his positivity or optimism in changing the situation for the team. We are not too worried. It is up to him to understand whether it was an error in judgment and rectify it moving forward.”
On best-of-three format
The best Test team in the world should be decided after playing three matches instead of just one, said Kohli.
Kohli echoed team India coach Ravi Shastri’s statement, who had called for a three-match series just days before the final. Shastri and Kohli were referring to India’s dramatic bounce back against Australia and England in earlier series.
Kohli said that WTC has to be a ‘test of character’ of over three test matches, and the ability of a team to come back into the series or ‘blow away the other team’ would decide the best Test team in the world.
“It can’t just be a pressure applied over two days of good cricket and then you suddenly are not a good Test side anymore. I don’t believe in that,” Kohli said in the post-match conference.
Kohli feels a multi-game final would also capture the essence of Test cricket much better than a one-off showdown. He said one tends to remember a hard-fought series a lot more than a single contest.
“I think it has to be a hard grind and something that definitely needs to be worked on in the future to really; at the end of three matches, there’s effort, there’s ups and downs, there’s situations changing throughout the course of the series,” the Indian skipper said.
“I’m not saying this because we’re not on the winning side, but just for Test cricket and for this saga to be absolutely memorable,” Kohli added.
The captain maintained that the loss to New Zealand is not a true reflection of their achievements in the two-year WTC cycle.
“So we are not too bothered by this result because we understand, as a Test side what we’ve done over the last three, four years, not just over the last 18 months. So this is not a measure of who we are as a team and the ability and the potential we have had for so many years now,” he said.