What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. This was a particularly apt saying for New Zealand’s cricket team this June. After a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of England in 2019’s Cricket World Cup Final, Kane Williamson’s men picked themselves off the ground and marched on to a remarkable win against India by 8 wickets in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship. With the second World Test Championship already scheduled, India needs to take a page out of New Zealand’s book and chalk it up to experience. The following are five lessons that India should learn to get back to winning ways starting this August.
The team composition was arguably one of the main reasons as to why India lost to New Zealand in the WTC final. Having completely ignored the warnings of incumbent rain, Virat Kohli stuck with his initial decision to play two spinners rather than introduce another pacer or an extra batsman. Although Jadeja and Ashwin are quite trustworthy and do bring a level of balance to the team, New Zealand took advantage of this decision, adapted accordingly to the weather, and set themselves on course to win the tournament. Choosing the right team composition is vital and Kohli will definitely need to step it up in that sense if he wants to lead his men to his first ICC title as captain of India.
Being able to adjust your play is a remarkable quality that can tilt games in your favour. One perfect example of this was displayed by Mohammed Shami during the World Test Championship. Having been unlucky in previous years with batsmen playing false shots but not getting out, Shami took the stage on Day 5 and decided to start pitching the ball a bit fuller. This change worked and lead to him claiming four wickets. He could have had a five-for, but Williamson was saved by the Umpire’s call.
By pitching slightly fuller, Kane Williamson’s team visibly struggled to deal with Shami’s bowling, and England might face similar issues too. Whilst it may be difficult for Indian players who are generally used to pitching the ball shorter in the subcontinent, Indian bowlers need to focus on pitched up deliveries in order to limit the time available for batsmen to adjust to the shot.
Right Amount of Confidence
Most of Kohli’s men have a good level of experience playing in England. In addition to tons of experience in different series, Kohli himself is on his third tour of England and the same is the case for other team members such as Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara. The Indian team need to take advantage of this and turn it into confidence.
One player to look out for in this sense is Rishabh Pant. His confidence in his ability is sometimes criticised as carelessness but he has the ability to tilt the game in their favour in numerous ways as could be seen by the reverse scoop on James Anderson or in his reverse shots against pacers during Test cricket. The team does not lack individuals of great experience and confidence, but India needs to make sure not to turn their confidence into arrogance. The right amount of confidence can give them the win whilst taking the series against England lightly may lead to yet another disappointment.
Natural Swing Bowler
The lack of a natural swing bowler is possibly one of the biggest weak points of the Indian team. Whilst Shami, Bumrah and Ishant are seamers of great quality, a natural swing bowler could really pave the way for a win. Unfortunately, India have yet been unable to replace Bhuvneshwar Kumar with someone who could provide an equally good level of swing bowling in addition to decent batting. Ishant is the only pacer that provides some swing but the lack of a natural swing bowler is starting to prove costly for the Indian team. The Indian team definitely needs to fill in this missing spot in some way or form.
Patience is a virtue. Looking back at the World Test Championship, India seemed to struggle in nurturing said virtue. Most of the Indian team ended up walking back to the pavilion after playing balls they could have let go. These decisions do come back to haunt you. It is important to be able to avoid temptation when it is possible to do so. The likes of Rohit and Kohli need to be an example to their teammates in this regard and not replicate their costly mistakes in the World Test Championship Final where they kept dangling their bats outside the off stump and ended up watching the rest of the innings, instead of taking part in it.