An overrated Indian cricket team flattered to deceive once again, stumbling this time in the final of the World Test Championship at The Oval in London. The ageing, underperforming Team India, who have come a cropper often enough in Cup finals to be dubbed the serial chokers of the last decade of cricket, were disappointing to the extent of allowing Australia to complete victory in all varieties of ICC events.
A major re-evaluation is in order of a team studded with super celebrities whose performances in key events have never been questioned by doting fans and an administration and selectors who are in awe of the very system of an old boys’ club that they pay allegiance to. An overhaul of personnel and methods of play in an era of attacking cricket has to be undertaken if the team were ever to justify all the hyperbole about it.
The feckless manner in which star batters like Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli lost their wickets in the chase of a target that has not been achieved in three different centuries since the 19th was a pointer to how easily they surrender just when grand performances are crucial to make victory possible in cricket’s biggest events.
The mistakes that Team India have consistently made in not picking their star spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin are intriguingly familiar in English conditions. If Australia were to play a Test match in Antarctica, they would still have pencilled in the name of their great spin bowler Shane Warne first in the playing XI. It is exasperating that the think tank goes on felicitously justifying Ashwin’s omission despite the fact that India earned a place in the final thanks to his efforts over two years in Australia, where India won a memorable series in the times of Covid-19 in 2021, and at home, albeit on doctored pitches.
What contributes the most, after Team India’s wins in two series Down Under, to the myths of invincibility around the team is the preparation of designer pitches in India that tilt the odds unfairly in favour of the home team. Despite that, their away record has not been bad to suggest that they do not need that crutch to promote themselves as leading contenders for titles.
Team India may be the biggest money-spinning brand in world cricket that is second only to the cash-rich IPL with its dazzling riches of TV and digital rights revenues. But it is not being tended to by nepotism-induced appointment of key administrators and servile selectors who fold in at the sight of the superstars like skipper Sharma, who is yet to justify his “immeasurable” talent as a leader after taking over from Virat Kohli. The fitness levels of the captain and some of his team mates are also suspect.
As another cycle of a Test championship begins and an ODI World Cup is around the corner, the time is ripe for strategic changes in style of play as well as who is to be picked for which format of the game. Any failure to address issues may lead to a loss of faith in a cricket team that is the pride of fans around the world from a sizeable section of the Indian diaspora who lend a unique atmosphere, if noisy, to games involving Team India.