Aakash Chopra has questioned Team India’s tactics in the post-lunch session on the reserve day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in Southampton. According to the former Indian batsman, had the Men in Blue batted sensibly in the first hour after lunch and not lost any wickets, they could have drawn the WTC final. As per ICC rules, India and New Zealand would have been declared joint winners in that case.
Team India went into lunch on the final day of the WTC final with a lead of 98 runs and five wickets in hand. 75 overs of play were left in the day. In the second session, India played some inexplicable cricket to be bowled out for 170, leaving New Zealand a target of only 139 runs to win the WTC final.
In a detailed analysis of Team India’s defeat in a column for ESPNCricinfo, Chopra questioned the tactics of Rishabh Pant and R Ashwin, who played loose strokes to get out when defiance should have been the order of the day. Chopra pointed out:
“I think India missed a trick with the bat in the second innings. They might have started the final day with the thought of forcing a result, but the twin wickets of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara put them on the back foot in the first hour.”
Chopra believed that had Team India added another 25-30 runs in the second session, they could have put victory beyond the Kiwis’ reach in the WTC final. The former Indian batsman, however, lamented:
“Pant, though, came out swinging in the second session. Jadeja was a little uncomfortable against the bouncer trap and lost his wicket, but in came R Ashwin intent on taking on every short ball that came his way… India were still not out of the woods - far from it, actually - when Pant chose to step down the track one more time, but this time he connected and the ball went skywards. Henry Nicholls took an excellent catch running backwards, and that sent India deeper into a hole.”
While praising Pant for his past heroics in Australia and at home against England, Chopra added that he looked confused out in the middle on the last day of the WTC final, and that his innings mirrored his mindset. Chopra elaborated:
“Pant's approach on the final day was either a reflection of his belief (or lack of it) in his skills against the swinging ball, or perhaps he was trapped in the cage of his own reputation. We have seen him do all sorts of unbelievable things with the bat. Who would dream of reverse-scooping James Anderson in Tests or Jofra Archer in white-ball cricket? Still, we had never seen Pant dance down the track to fast bowlers, even in white-ball cricket. He prefers playing from the crease, or going further inside the crease. So his stepping out felt a little odd. Was he not told at lunch that his methods weren't aligned with what the team wanted?”
“Ashwin's approach also mirrored what Pant was trying to do. In Southampton it wasn't the Ashwin who we saw take innumerable body blows in Sydney. Here, he was going for shots - pulls, drives, the lot. He was dismissed in the same over as Pant, driving a wide-ish delivery from Trent Boult.”
One bad hour cost Team India the WTC title: Aakash Chopra
Chopra admitted that conditions undoubtedly favored New Zealand in the WTC final, despite the venue being a neutral one. He, however, added that Team India have only themselves to blame for not taking their chances and losing a great opportunity to draw the WTC final. Chopra opined:
“Was it lack of planning, or the wrong planning, or the lack of proper execution? Only the Indian dressing room will know the answer to these questions. This Indian team has stayed at the top of the Test rankings for five straight years, but unfortunately history will remember the one hour that India didn't plan. The legacy of teams and captains is defined by the trophies they win; it doesn't matter how many battles you win if you fail to win the war.”
The WTC final loss to New Zealand was Kohli’s third failed attempt to win an ICC crown as captain. Under him, Team India lost the 2017 Champions Trophy final to Pakistan and went down to the Kiwis in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
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