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Bad shots, poor foot work, lack of courage let India down at ICC Test Championship

By Sudhansu R Das 

They are roaring lions at home. They bat with great fashion and score tons in the Indian conditions. When they play on grass top wickets abroad they turn kittens; they push their legs inside the shells like a panic turtle. Their minds stop working and their courage withers. This has exactly happened to the Indian top order batsmen in the ICC Test Championship Final 2023 against Australia held in the historic Oval cricket ground in London. It is not the pitch, not the fury of fast bowlers and not the climate that defeated India, it’s the lack of plan, courage, footwork, application and lack of temperament that gave team India an embarrassing defeat; a bitter memory which millions of Indian fans will love to forget.
Team India lost the final with a huge margin of 209 runs. “The team should not have conceded 469 runs in the first innings had they kept fielders in the deep to stop boundaries”, said Sunil Gavaskar in his interview just after the match, “the team did not prepare well and the batsmen played bad shots when they were supposed to dig in.” What the veteran cricketer said is a learning point for the team management. Why should they play at the top order if they don’t have steely resolve, sound footwork and the courage to attack? The point is when Shardul Thakur and Ravindra Jadeja scored with style, confidence and courage, why the top order failed.
Team India had no definite plan before the big event. Without sound footwork, courage, composure and solid defense, nobody can become a complete batsman. A batsman needs to survive amid strong wind, cold weather and ferocious bowling attack backed by fielding. It is the inner strength that lets a batsman survive and go after the bowlers. The Oval pitch was not bad and the bowling was not that ferocious though the pitch had occasional extra bounce. “The pitch was good”, said Rohit Sharma, “we lost because we played bad shots.”
In the first innings, Rohit Sharma started well with two powerful midwicket pulls and later threw his wicket while playing across trying to flick an in-swing delivery of Cummins; he did not move his front foot an inch. It was a normal short of length in swing delivery which pitched on the off stump. In the second Innings, Rohit Sharma as usual started with fluent drives and pulls; he lost his steam in between. He was LBW while playing a sweep shot of Lyon’s leg spin which pitched on the leg stump; it was a harmless leg spin which could have been played straight at this crucial moment.
The IPL hero, Shubman Gill well left another short of length gentle in-swing ball from Boland which rattled his stumps. Perhaps he thought it was an out swinger and he kept the bat away. Gill cut a sorry figure. It happened in the first innings. In the second innings, Gill was out while playing Boland with a double mind. A gentle delivery on the off stump swinging away took his edge. Pujara gave his wicket in a similar fashion; it was a short of length inswing ball from Green right on the off stump line; Pujara misread it as an out swing and lifted his bat. In the second innings, he was middling well but suddenly he tried to hit Cummins over the wicket keeper and gave an easy catch.
In the first innings, Virat Kohli was caught at the second slip while playing a short pitch delivery from Starc which was moving away from his rib line; Kohli, being a world class batsman could have managed such a delivery. In the second innings, Virat Kohli was well settled and was hitting bowlers at will. He was not knowing the Aussies had laid a trap for him. Boland bowled just short of length outside the off stump. Kohli went for a cover drive and gave a catch at the slip. He was clearly playing away from the line. It was a bad ball from Boland and a good wicket for Australia. Rahane played a gentle out swing of Cummins which pitched little outside the off stump and gave a catch. It was a bad ball from Cummins which gave enough room to Rahane for a cracking boundary.
In the second innings, Starc bowled a short outside the off stump, a bad ball indeed. Rahane went for a lusty hitting and gave an easy catch to the wicket keeper. It was not necessary at all. India expected a responsible long innings from Rahane at this juncture. He threw his wicket.
The Australian team management did extensive research on our batsmen’s technique, temperament, strength and weaknesses. They trained their bowlers where to bowl in the match and it paid off. It has not happened in India. Our veteran players and the former masters give lots of TV interviews but contribute little to improve the flaws in the Indian batting. Australians exploited this situation and were confident of winning the ICC Test Championship Final. They laid traps for every Indian top order; and our top order fell into the trap one by one.
Indian former captain, Mahinder Singh Dhoni was an avid reader of the batman’s foot work flaws, strength and weaknesses. He had a plan for everybody. Rohit Sharma is not like Dhoni and he relies on aggression and not on cool and creative thinking like Dhoni. The grace and style does not work if the batsman does have staying power in tough match situations. The ICC World Cup is nine months away. The team management should hunt for young complete batsmen, good fast bowlers and leg spinners to replace the old players in the team. The team selection should be wise.



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