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What went wrong for India in the 2023 WTC Final against Australia?

India was humiliated by Australia in the Final of the World Test Championship. The Rohit Sharma-led Indian side lost the match by a huge margin of 209 runs. Winning the toss, Rohit Sharma elected to bowl first. Australia put a mammoth total of 469 on the board in the first innings, with hundreds from Travis Head and Steve Smith. Since then, it has been difficult for Team India to come back into the game. Eventually, defeat was inevitable.

In this blog, let us look at some reasons why India lost the final of the World Test Championship.

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Wrong Decision at the Toss

The overcast weather and 6mm of grass deceived the team management and Rohit Sharma in bowling first. Unless it is pitch dark, India should have refrained from bowling first. The Oval has been historically a ground where you bat first. Before this game, out of the 104 games played at this venue, the winning team had batted first 88 times. The fickle English weather changes quickly, and the grass has little say in the game after the first session. Winning the toss and bowling first, you tend to go extra hard in searching for a wicket and, in the process, leak runs. This happened with team India as they gave away more than 300 runs on the first day.

Team Selection Error

India should have looked at someone like Jaydev Unadkat in the bowling lineup on a quick-scoring venue like the Oval. Umesh, Siraj, Shami, and Shardul are similar bowlers who cannot generate extra bounce off the wicket. On the other hand, Unadkat provides variation by being a left-arm seamer. He can dry up runs when the pitch is not offering any movement. For a man who has toiled tirelessly on dead Indian pitches, he would have played a key role with the ball and provided variety in the bowling department.

While one may argue that India should have played Ashwin, playing just three pacers in England was a huge risk. It was unlikely that Ravichandran Ashwin would have featured in the Playing 11. India did right by playing four seamers, a successful pattern in the 2021 England series.

It was not that India missed Ashwin; India lacked variety in the bowling department and a bowler who could provide control and hold up one end.

Lack of control with the ball

India was brilliant with the ball in the first hour of the Test match. But as Umesh and Shardul replaced Siraj and Shami, the floodgates opened. They bowled erratic lines and lengths and released all the pressure created by Shami and Siraj. They lacked discipline and drifted on the pads or were full with their lines and lengths.

In trying to price out a wicket, the Indian bowlers were often over-aggressive, which played in the hands of Australia. They were caught off guard by counter-attacking innings by Head and did not have an answer to stop him. His attacking instincts disrupted the bowling rhythm of Indian pacers. India could have made run-scoring difficult for Australia by bowling testing lines and lengths.

Once Australia crossed 300 runs on the first day, it was very difficult for India to come back into the match.

Indian Batsmen fail to get a big score

In the first innings, none of the Indian batters could score a big hundred. Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur, who scored half-centuries, were dropped by the Australian fielders, and the bowlers overstepped.

Otherwise, India would have scored even fewer runs with the bat. If any of the batters could have played a long innings, the team could have reached closer to the Australian target. In the second innings, Indian batters gifted their wickets to the Aussie bowlers. They got out playing horrendous shots in the quest of attacking cricket. Rohit Sharma tried to sweep a straighter ball by Lyon, Pujara, of all people, tried to play a ramp shot over the keeper, Virat Kohli tried to cover drive a ball on the 7th stump, and Ajinkya Rahane tried to cut a shot and wide ball. India could have applied themselves better on the batting-friendly wicket. Runs would have come eventually as the Australian captain Pat Cummins had set a defensive field. There was no need to do anything fancy at that stage with a steep target to chase.

The superiority of the opposition

At the end of the day, one must agree that Australia was more superior and more balanced team than India in English conditions. The relentless Australian pace attack made Indian batters work hard for runs. The batting was far more reliable than India.

Steve Smith, the best Test batter of the generation with an outstanding record at the Oval, was once again a thorn in the flesh for India. Although Carey and Labuschagne did not score huge runs, they scored some crucial runs for Australia in both the innings. With Cameron Green as the fast-bowling all-rounder, Australia had a settled bowling lineup and covered all the bases. It was always very difficult for Team India to beat the mighty Australian side in these challenging conditions.

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