Losing with Unforced Errors will Hurt Dravid the Most

Photo by Debasis Sen

By 3pm IST, loads of Indians – some at the Kennington Oval, close to the Thames river, others all over the world in different time zones – were glued to the action from the fifth day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final.

At 3:29pm, Virat Kohli fell, and took with him a lot of the hope of India winning this ultimate Test. Now, before everyone castigates Kohli for the extravagant drive, spare a thought for where that shot came from. The previous couple of balls had jagged back in, and going by that template, he pushed at it. Yes, with hard hands, but that is the way he plays. That particular ball from Scott Boland held its line after pitching, and that is what did him in.

To get a player of Kohli’s stature the way he did just goes to show that Boland is no flash in the pan, and that he is not just here because Josh Hazlewood is not a 100 percent. Boland is here to stay, and will be an integral part of the Aussie endeavour to retain the Ashes. With the lengths he bowls and how accurate he is, I don’t see him sitting out. Pat Cummins, Hazlewood, Boland, Cameron Green and Nathan Lyon could well be the line-up we see all summer provided they remain fit.

By 3:33pm, the already pin-drop-silent Oval was stunned when Ravi Jadeja, who has been India’s best batter in this WTC journey, averaging over 46, was sent back by another beauty. Round the wicket, the angle in to the left-hand batter made Jadeja play the ball, which seamed away after pitching. The length is also worth a mention, because once the ball is full or nearly so, a batter has very little or no time to adjust to the movement. With a ball that was 46.5 overs old, that is was a peach of a delivery, and it needed someone in great nick to find the edge. Many would have missed that by a mile. So form can work both ways.

Ajinkya Rahane, unperturbed by wickets falling around him, carried on where he left off in the first innings. He had one thing in mind, to bat long and rotate the strike. All that was going fine till a rush of blood had him go after one wide outside off stump from Mitchell Starc, who clearly had not been at his best. With that perished all hope of winning the WTC.

ALSO READ: Conservatism and too much Rope – The Anatomy of a WTC Final Debacle

At 222-6, four of the top five batters had thrown it away with loose cricket shots. That will hurt, with Jadeja being the lone ranger who was done in by a superb delivery. Rahul Dravid, thr coach, will be distraught as his game was built on tremendous temperament. Not playing the big or expansive shot is often an integral part of Test batting.

What will hurt even more is that there was nothing in the pitch. This was as flat as it gets in the UK, and Lyon, who was meant to be the main threat on the final day, was only called on to bowl when India were six down. If we look back at this WTC journey, India’s top order has struggled right through. They have been bailed out by Rishabh Pant, Jadeja, Axar Patel
and others. In victory, all this gets brushed under the carpet. But when you lose, the introspection starts and home truths stare you in the face.

Shardul Thakur could not get another 50, caught plumb in front by Lyon, and the inevitable was unavoidable. So, after another runner-up finish in the WTC, where did India go wrong? Before we get too critical, and everyone is out with their scissors and cutters, there has been only one team that played in both the WTC finals. So India must have done quite a few things right.

Where the issues are is what everyone needs to ponder on. The timing of the WTC. Is that in anyone’s hands or it is what it is? The IPL window will not change, and we don’t know yet if the WTC-final window can be switched. Was India’s preparation ideal? Obviously not.
How can we fix that ? Could we have our Test specialists, the ones who are not regulars in IPL teams – like Umesh Yadav, KS Bharat and Jaydev Unadkat, to pick just a few names – miss the season, after being financially compensated, so they could better prepare for a Test challenge? The likes of Rohit, Virat, Rahane, Shami and Siraj would have to make the switch between formats. To be brutally honest, most of them showed only glimpses of their real ability.

Could we have Shardul play county cricket for him to turn the corner? Some of the best all-rounders in the world – Gary Sobers, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee and Clive Rice –

went through the rigours of county cricket, widely acclaimed as the best finishing school for a budding international cricketer.

Does the top order also need a rethink, or is the return of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer good enough? The bowling department has largely delivered, and Jasprit Bumrah coming back will only bolster the pack further.

When a country of 26 million beats a nation of 1.4 billion, lessons are there to be learnt. I am sure this will happen. Yes, India were outplayed fair and square. But hold your heads high, all Indians. The silver medal is not so bad after all. The hard work to go one better lies ahead, but savour this too. There are eight other teams who would have loved to be No. 2, England, the hosts, included.

ALSO READ: Indian Cricket Needs to Look to the Future After Latest Finals Debacle

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