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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Explained: Do India falter in knockout matches of ICC tournaments?

India vs New Zealand WTC Final: New Zealand ended their 21-year ICC world event drought, winning the inaugural World Test Championship by beating India at Southampton. What could be the reasons for India's loss?

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: June 24, 2021 1:42:35 pm
india vs new zealand, ind vs nz, ind vs nz wtc final, ind vs nz wtc final match, india vs new zealand wtc finalIndia's captain Virat Kohli watches as New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson, right, and Ross Taylor celebrate their win on the sixth day of the WTC final match between New Zealand and India, at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, England, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (AP Photo)

New Zealand ended their 21-year ICC world event drought, winning the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) by beating India at Southampton. India, on the other hand, bottled another International Cricket Council (ICC)-organised global tournament — six on the spin now starting from the 2014 World T20.

How has the sequence of defeats panned out?

New Zealand won the WTC final deep into the final session on the reserve day after two days of play were washed out due to rain. The backstory is that in 2014, India lost the ICC World T20 final to Sri Lanka. A year later, they lost the World Cup (50 overs) semifinal to Australia in Sydney. In 2016, they went down to the West Indies in the ICC World T20 semifinal in Mumbai. In 2017, India lost the Champions Trophy final to Pakistan at The Oval, while in 2019, New Zealand got the better of them in the World Cup semifinal at Old Trafford.

Which players have proven to India’s nemeses in those defeats?

Swing and seam proved to be India’s bugbear in the WTC final. In the first innings, Kyle Jamieson was the destroyer-in-chief with 5/31. In the second, he dismissed Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara inside two overs on the final day to break the backbone of India’s batting. In 2020, during his debut series also, Jamieson had troubled India by taking nine wickets in two Tests at 16.33. Tim Southee was the highest wicket-taker for the Kiwis in that series with 14 scalps. India had lost the two-Test series 2-0. On the last day of the WTC final, Southee finished with 4/48, as India’s second innings folded for 170.

In the 2014 World T20 final, Yuvraj Singh’s slow crawl sucked all the momentum from the Indian innings, batting first. In the 2015 World Cup semifinal, Steve Smith’s 105 off 93 balls took the game away from India. In the 2016 World T20 semifinal, Lendl Simmons’s 82 not out off 51 balls did the damage. The 2017 Champions Trophy final saw Fakhar Zaman roll over India’s bowling with a 106-ball 114. In the 2019 World Cup semifinal, Trent Boult and Matt Henry combined to run through India’s top order.

Was India’s loss at the WTC final down to lack of preparation?

New Zealand played two Tests in England ahead of the WTC final all right, but Kohli had all but ruled out the bedding-in factor. “Don’t board the flight if you think New Zealand have an extra edge in the finals,” the India captain had said at the pre-departure press conference. “In the past, we’ve landed three days prior to the schedule and had a great tour. Conditions are as potent for New Zealand as they are for us. Conditions in Australia should’ve favoured them too. It’s about how you look at things. It’s all in the head,” he had added.

Did India pick the wrong team for the WTC final?

With the advantage of hindsight, maybe India were a fast bowler short. Rain washed out the first day of the final and although India announced their playing XI on the match eve, they had the opportunity to have a rethink, for the toss took place on the second day. On the face of it, two spinners in overcast condition and with temperature hovering below 20 degrees Celsius even during mid-day, was a luxury. Then again, it was a double-edged sword. India went with their best 11 players and backed them to do well irrespective of conditions. Ravindra Jadeja was an automatic pick for his all-round ability, while Ravichandran Ashwin was the team’s best bowler on the final day. As Kohli said after the match, India lacked a fast-bowling all-rounder who could have provided more balance to the playing eleven.

Actually, India were undone by their batting on the last day, when conditions became a lot easier for batting. The sun was out and there was no prodigious lateral movement. Still, India lost eight wickets for 106 runs on the reserve day. Both Kohli and Pujara perished playing away from their body, while Rahane was caught down the leg side. Jadeja got out to Neil Wagner, when the left-arm fast bowler was into the ninth over of his spell.

“India should have batted better. The sun was out, there wasn’t prodigious movement, but they were bowled out for 170,” Sunil Gavaskar said on TV commentary.

Meanwhile, an off-colour Jasprit Bumrah crippled India’s bowling. He went wicketless in his 26 overs in the first innings and in the second innings, when he eventually induced an edge from Ross Taylor, Pujara dropped a dolly at first slip.

How did India’s senior batsmen fare during the WTC cycle?

Stats put out by OptaJeev on Twitter show a dip in form for Kohli, Pujara and Rahane. It says that since the beginning of 2019, the trio has registered a total of six Test centuries compared to 18 that they notched up in 2017 and 2018.

Was Rishabh Pant a let-down in the WTC final?

In 1984, a year after leading India to its maiden World Cup triumph, Kapil Dev was dropped for playing a poor shot in a Test against England that his team lost. The current Indian team has given Pant the licence to play his natural game. It worked well in Australia, when the wicketkeeper-batsman had the rub of the green as well. Catches were dropped early into his innings. A stumping chance was missed in Brisbane.

In Southampton, Pant was dismissed in the first innings, slashing hard at a wide, swinging delivery without moving his feet. In the second innings, an attempted hoick against swing brought about his downfall. Unlike in Australia, here Pant didn’t have a Nathan Lyon to milk his runs from one end.

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