Lessons India can take from WTC Final for England series | Key lessons India can learn from the WTC Final defeat to perform better in the England series
The World Test Championship (WTC) Final now seems like something that occurred a long time ago, such is the fast-moving world of sport.
All is not lost in a defeat, as such a result is a given in any sport. Being a team of thorough professionals, Virat Kohli’s men will be eager to take certain learning from the WTC Final too.
Actually, to the contrary belief amongst the masses, there were some key positives for the Indian side from their defeat in Southampton, which we will elaborate upon here.
Rohit Sharma has proven his mettle as an opener in limited-overs cricket across different conditions over the years. He started playing at the top in the whites only from late-2019 onward and had played in that role in familiar playing conditions so far.
Hence, his performance in the WTC finale was keenly awaited, as New Zealand’s opening bowling pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult posed a stunning challenge in front of the Mumbai Indians skipper.
However, Rohit looked well at ease against New Zealand’s ensemble of excellent pacers. Even in testing conditions, Sharma’s technique looked solid, his intent was positive, always looking to keep the board ticking and also got a few boundaries to his name in the way.
People are well aware that the opening hour is always the toughest for any batsman in English conditions. Rohit could have possibly built upon his starts well in both the innings.
However, his brief innings on both the occasions gave a solid disclaimer that the Indian team could rely on a formidable, reliant top-order for the England series. That would take a lot of weight off the back of the middle-order spearheaded by skipper Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
On the other hand, off-spinner and senior pro Ravichandran Ashwin’s performance was a major positive too. Ashwin looked right on the money in both innings, even opening the gateway for a possible Indian comeback for a brief time by providing two quick breakthroughs during the final Kiwi chase as well.
Ashwin has been in top form right from the Australian series. His execution of plans have been spot on, even neutralizing Steven Smith’s impact Down Under. He looked in absolutely fine touch in the WTC final too; something that would be key for India throughout the English series.
His gutsy batting late down the order will also help India match up with the batting proficiency of the opposition’s tail-enders, something that has historically troubled the Indian team in overseas conditions in the past.
Injuries had arguably prevented the spinner from operating at full throttle during the 2018 tour, but India will need him firing on all cylinders this time around. All-round performances from the seasoned player will be instrumental for the Indian team’s success this time around.
Moreover, Ashwin’s definite inclusion and a much refined batting display in recent times opens the opportunity for the team to either play an extra batsman in Hanuma Vihari or go with the all-round capabilities of Ravindra Jadeja at number 7.
Jadeja has delivered solid all-round performances multiple times in important games and he along with Rishabh Pant could give the attacking spark and impetus that further augments the capabilities of an already dependable middle-order.
In terms of lessons, perhaps the single biggest learning for the Indian batsmen would be to make the most of the starts that they accumulate.
At least in the first innings, most of the batsmen had set their eye in but got undone by the skill of the Kiwi pacers and some shrewd captaincy by Kane Williamson. It is likely that India could go with a 6-5 formula in the XI with Jadeja and Ashwin as the main all-rounders. In such a situation, the role of the top five increases furthermore and it would be critical that at least of the key batsmen manage to stay on the crease for a long period of time to steer the inning along.
Another key point of concern would be to ensure that India’s pace attack operates at full throttle. In the WTC finale, the bowlers perhaps didn’t have enough on the board to defend against. However, the famed Indian pace trio too arguably might have to up their game across the lengthy England series.
It might perhaps help that someone like Jasprit Bumrah will have adequate match-practice to get into his rhythm by the time India sets foot at Trent Bridge on 4th August. Moreover, across a comprehensive series like this one, India might also prefer slotting in Mohammed Siraj in some of the games to see how he manages to deal with the challenge that the English conditions throw at him.
Siraj has impressed one and all with his fantastic skillset in a short-lived international career so far. He has excelled in both Indian and Australian conditions, and certainly seems to have the abilities to stand up the challenges that he might face in England. His relentless attitude and the unique ability to bring something unfamiliar to the Englishmen on the fore will certainly enable India to gain an edge at some critical point in the series.
The Indian team might also have to deal with some dynamic challenges due to some recent developments. It remains to be seen whether Rishabh Pant will participate in the initial part of the series after having tested positive for Covid-19. Even Wriddhiman Saha was undergoing quarantine as a precautionary measure, though he could likely be fit if Pant is unavailable at least for the opening Test.
This would be a major issue, considering Pant was arguably India’s best batsman in the second innings of the WTC finale. Furthermore, his match-winning abilities and growing confidence in recent times have been a major positive for the Indian team in recent times.
Nevertheless, the current circumstances are largely dynamic and uncertain, as India have found in their limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. Only the most flexible and strengthened of teams, with ample bench-strength, and the ability to adapt seamlessly will succeed in different playing situations.
This series will mark the beginning of the 2021-23 WTC cycle. India has no time to fret over the inaugural WTC result now, as it already has a mounting challenge to scale in one of the toughest countries to visit for teams from across the cricketing world.
Written by Tarkesh Jha. Follow Tarkesh on