Spin trouble: On Indian cricket and the World Test Championship  

India has another shot at an ICC trophy after beating Australia 

Updated - March 15, 2023 12:31 pm IST

Published - March 15, 2023 12:10 am IST

India’s unassailable form in its cricketing backyard was reiterated once Rohit Sharma’s men retained the Border Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 verdict in the recent four Test series against Australia. But the larger picture was the tussle for a berth in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at London’s Oval from June 7. A clear margin of winning by two Tests was essential but the Aussies won at Indore and reduced the deficit while Ahmedabad’s placid surface hinted at an inevitable run-soaked drawn encounter. Sri Lanka, the other contender, was in with a chance while Australia had already sealed its spot. Thankfully for India, a Kane Williamson master-class helped New Zealand secure a thrilling last-ball victory over Sri Lanka at Christchurch. Sri Lanka’s loss proved to be a welcome bonus for India, which qualified immediately even as the Ahmedabad Test meandered towards a stalemate. Having lost to New Zealand in the 2021 final at Southampton, India’s quest this time around was to first qualify and then to correct the ICC title drought within its cupboard at the BCCI office in Mumbai. India last won an ICC championship when it claimed the Champions Trophy at Birmingham in 2013. Subsequently both in Test whites and in the blue shade, India has failed in the knockout rounds.

The triumph against Australia should hold India in good stead, but when the rivals face off at a neutral venue in the WTC summit clash, there will be no designer spinning square. Tests ending within three days with pitches deteriorating from the first ball do not augur well for cricket’s longest format. Ahmedabad with its five days of the game was an exception but when India travel abroad, it is pace that rules. With spearhead Jasprit Bumrah recovering from a surgery, there are some worries and the two Mohammeds — Shami and Siraj — besides Umesh Yadav, have to shore up the pace attack. Rohit, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were back among the runs during the latest series against Australia and with Shubman Gill revealing good form, there is hope that these batters can thrive at the Oval. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had a heap of wickets and it remains to be seen if India would field both or play just one in the WTC final. A lurking headache is that the core group of Rohit, Kohli, Pujara, Ashwin and Jadeja are in their mid-thirties and transition is inevitable. But before that there is the three-match ODI series against Australia followed by the Indian Premier League: India will fly to England in June.

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