5 Reasons Why Team India Failed The Ultimate Test Against New Zealand
The way an injury-ravaged, second-string India outsmarted a full-strength Australian side at Fortress Gabba early this year to win the series 2-1, spoke volumes of the team’s character and bench strength. And when Virat Kohli’s men spun a web around England in the home series after being thoroughly outplayed in the opening Test, expectations were sky-high for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
Alas, the high-fliers were cut to size by Kane Williamson’s Kiwi brigade. So why did India come out second best in the much hyped ‘Ultimate Test’? Yes, they were under-prepared compared to New Zealand. But one has to dig deeper to get the answers.
Here are five factors which hurt India’s cause:
1. Flop Show By ‘Big 3’
Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s pedigree cannot be questioned. With a combined experience of 252 Tests, over 18,000 runs and 57 centuries under their belt, they have been the fulcrum of the team’s batting for the better part of the last decade. Of late, though, they have struggled with their consistency. And when all three of them fail, like they did in the WTC final, it was no surprise that India found themselves in trouble. The fact that no Indian batsman registered a half-century at Southampton tells its own tale. Conditions by and large suited bowlers in the match, but the sun shone brightly on the final day, when India folded up for a pathetic 170 in the second innings.
2. Case For An Extra Batsman
India owe their fantastic run in the last 2-3 years mainly to the bowlers. The batting has often looked fragile, both at home and overseas. Considering they didn’t have any serious match practice in England and that they would be confronting a high-quality New Zealand pace attack, the team management should have considered playing someone like Hanuma Vihari at No. 6. Rishabh Pant has developed into a matchwinner over the last 6 months, but he doesn’t have the technique and solidity to play the role of an all-season specialist batsman.
3. Jasprit Bumrah Below Par
He is considered by many to be the world’s premier fast bowler across all three formats. But such a potent weapon was rendered ineffective on a pitch which encouraged quick bowlers to go the extra mile. Bumrah went wicketless in the match, conceding 92 runs in 36.4 overs. It was the first time that he returned empty-handed in 18 overseas Tests that he has played since making his debut in January 2018. Apart from one spell in New Zealand’s first innings and another one late in the game on Friday, when he troubled Ross Taylor and had him dropped, Bumrah hardly looked threatening. In the first innings especially, he couldn’t quite hit the fullish length that could have induced the batsman to play a false stroke to the swinging ball.
4. Just Another Test Match
While the entire cricketing world was focused on the historic inaugural World Test Championship final, for Virat Kohli it was “just another Test match.” The Team India captain’s statement at the pre-match press conference last week sounded a tad jarring, coming from a cricketer who likes to wear aggression on his sleeves. May be it was his way of conveying a message to the International Cricket Council that a one-off Test was not the ideal way to decide the top team. Or he could have been trying to take the pressure off his players. Or maybe he knew his team wasn’t in a good space. Whatever be his thought process, it was certainly not the right mindset for a match as big as this one. It was quite evident that New Zealand were the more determined and hungry side on the field.
5. Bhuvi’s Absence Felt
After missing the tour of Australia due to a thigh muscle injury, Bhuvneshwar Kumar made a decent comeback in the limited-overs series against England in March. Though he picked up a minor niggle playing an IPL match for Sunrisers Hyderabad 2 months ago, it can be assumed he was fit as the selectors named him in India’s Sri Lanka-bound squad for ODIs and T20 Internationals. But why was he ignored for the tour of England? Even if he wasn’t cent per cent fit by the time Virat Kohli’s men left India, Bhuvi should still have been on the plane to England. It was worth taking the risk as Bhuvi is a genuine swing bowler who enjoyed great success during India’s tour of England in 2014. A spate of injuries has meant that Bhuvi is no longer in the top 5 of the pacers’ pecking order, but for a Test match in England, he could have been an asset if the team management believed in horses for courses. Someone like Ishant Sharma could have been sacrificed to accommodate Bhuvi in the playing XI.