Legendary Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar slammed the Indian team, especially star batter Virat Kohli, for poor shot selection and overall disappointing performance with the bat, which saw them crumble in the opening session of the final day of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval during a run-chase of 444 runs. After their ICC World Test Championship title win against India in the final by 209 runs at The Oval, Australia made history by becoming the first-ever team to clinch all major ICC trophies. After dominating India over the course of five days Australia secured their maiden World Test Championship 2023 title on Sunday at the Oval, London. India was bundled out at 234 in 63.3 overs while chasing 444, with Mohammad Shami as the last player standing with a score of 13(8)*.
India started the final day in a solid position at 164/3, with Virat Kohli (44*) and Ajinkya Rahane (20*) unbeaten. But early in the first session, Virat chased a ball that pitched outside off stump and edged it straight into the hands of Steve Smith at slips, who took a brilliant diving catch. Virat did not only miss his fifty by a run, but it started India’s downward spiral on the final day too. “It was a bad shot. It was an ordinary shot. You are asking me about it, I think you should ask Kohli. What was that shot? That was a shot outside the off-stump. We talked so much about the fact that to win a match, you need a long inning. You need a century. How are you going to make a century if you are going to play a shot so far outside the off-stump,” Gavaskar said on Star Sports.
Gavaskar said that perhaps Virat’s mind was occupied with reaching his half-century. “Pretty ordinary shot [by Kohli] outside the off stump. He had been leaving till then. He flashes at one outside the off stump. Maybe he was conscious of the fact that he needed one run to get to a half-century. A lot of time it happens. You are nearing a milestone. It happened to Jadeja (Ravindra Jadeja) I think. He played at a delivery he shouldn’t have when he was 48 [in the first innings],” said Gavaskar.
Gavaskar did not spare anyone and was critical of Indian batting as a whole for not being able to last even a single session with wickets in hand and some capable stars still batting or coming to bat later. “The batting was in shambles today. It was just ridiculous what we saw today. The shot-making, we saw some pretty ordinary shots yesterday from Pujara. And today some of the shots that we saw. How do you expect a win?,” said Gavaskar.
“We did not even last a session with this batting line-up with eight wickets in hand. Come on,” added Gavaskar. Gavaskar also criticised head coach Rahul Dravid for his comments on players’ batting averages falling.
After the match, though Dravid said that India’s top five batters are future legends, experienced and have won in difficult conditions of Australia and England, he admits that the players did not do justice to their high standards and tough wickets have been set up all over the world keeping how each point in the championship matters and this needs to be factored while looking at batting averages. “They (India’s top five batters) are experienced, they are legends of the future. The same boys have won twice in Australia, won Tests in England. Yes, they will agree this was not up to their high standards but we are working on it. Some of the wickets have been challenging. This was a good wicket, but some other conditions haven’t been easy,” Dravid had said after the match.
“Every game is important in the WTC. You need points, you cannot play for draws. So everywhere, even in India, the wickets have been tough. You have to factor this in while looking at averages. It is not just ours, but yes, we need to work on it. If we give bowlers runs to play with, we can win Tests,” he added. Gavaskar urged that something be done about the falling averages of stars like Virat, Rahane, Pujara etc., since it is costing the team big time.
“It does not matter what the other players’ averages are. We are talking about the Indian team now. The Indian players’ averages are falling, something has to be done. The batting is the one which is costing us. Why is it happening? That is something we need to look at. You bat well in India, you are the ‘dadas’ in India, but then, some of them falter outside,” said Gavaskar. “Is the level of coaching not what you require? Is there not much of analysis about areas where you lack? Honest self-assessment is an absolute necessity after this. One team is going to win, one is going to lose. It is how you lose, that is the thing. That hurts.”
“We have also been knocked out. And we have been miserable. You cannot say that the current lot is beyond criticism. You have to be analytical about what happened out there. Was our approach right? Was our selection right? You cannot brush this under the carpet,” Gavaskar concluded. Coming to the match, India started the day five at 164/3, with Virat Kohli (44*) and Ajinkya Rahane (20*) unbeaten at the crease.
However, a game-changing over by Scott Boland, which saw him trap Virat for 49 and Ravindra Jadeja for a duck, started India’s downfall. Rahane was dismissed by Mitchell Starc for 46 while Srikar Bharat (23) was dismissed by Nathan Lyon. The Indian batting line-up failed to put up a fight, bundling out for 234 runs in 63.3 overs to hand Australia their first-ever WTC title.
Lyon was the pick of the bowlers for Australia, taking 4/41. Boland took 3/46 while Starc got two wickets. Skipper Pat Cummins got one wicket. On day four, India ended at 164/3, with Virat Kohli (44*) and Ajinkya Rahane (20*) unbeaten at the crease. Skipper Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill (18) gave the team a brisk start with a 41-run opening stand, but a contentional catch by Cameron Green on Boland’s delivery ended the partnership.
A 51-run stand between Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara helped India carry forward the chase with an attacking intent. But Lyon dismissed Rohit for 43 and Cummins removed Pujara for 27 to reduce India to 93/3. From that point on, Rahane and Virat formed a 71-run stand to end the fourth day strongly. Australia declared their innings at 270/8, gaining a lead of 443 runs. Australia was restricted to 24/2 at one point, but Marnus Labuschagne (41) and Steve Smith (34) brought back Australia into the game. Later, contributions from middle-order/lower-middle-order players like Cameron Green (25), a half-century from wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey (60*) and his 93-run stand with Mitchell Starc (41) increased Australia’s lead over India.
Ravindra Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers for India, taking 3/58. Umesh Yadav (2/54) and Mohammed Shami (2/39) got two wickets each while Mohammed Siraj got one scalp. In their first innings, India was bundled out for 296 runs. India trailed Australia by 173 runs, who had scored 469 runs in their first innings.
India’s top order failed in their first innings. Rohit Sharma (15), Shubman Gill (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (14) and Virat Kohli (14) failed to post big scores. But contributions from comeback man Ajinkya Rahane (89 in 129 balls, 11 fours and a six), Shardul Thakur (51 in 109 balls with six fours) and Ravindra Jadeja (48 in 51 balls with seven fours and a six) helped India put on a fight after being restricted to 71/4. Pat Cummins (3/83), Nathan Lyon (2/19), Cameron Green (2/44), Scott Boland (2/59) and Mitchell Starc (2/71) were among the wickets for Australia.
Australia’s 469 runs in the first innings were powered largely by centuries from Travis Head (163 in 174 balls, 25 fours and a six), and Steve Smith (121 in 268 balls, 19 fours). David Warner (43) and Marnus Labuschagne (26) made notable contributions, but Australia was reduced to 76/3. From that point, Head and Smith attacked Indian bowlers, hitting their centuries. Later in the innings, Alex Carey also provided some much-needed extra runs with a knock of 48. Siraj (4/108) was the leading bowler for India in the first innings. Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami got two wickets while Jadeja got one.
Travis Head was given the ‘Player of the Match’ title for his attacking 163. Brief Scores: Australia: 469 and 270/8 (Alex Carey 60*, Marnus Labuschagne 41, Ravindra Jadeja 3/58) won over India: 296 and 234 (Virat Kohli 49, Rohit Sharma 43, Nathan Lyon 4/41).