Ageas Bowl (Southampton), (Asian independent) In the end no enterprise was needed on the part of either skipper to manufacture a result.
India folded up feebly; and this paved the way for a famous New Zealand victory in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC), their first triumph in an ICC event after their victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2000.
Winners of the inaugural World Test Championship and therefore the overall champions of cricket — indeed a scoop to savour for the Black Caps.
It was tight and tense till the conclusion. India had to remove the seasoned duo of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, who formed an association for the third wicket. Cheteshwar Pujara dropped the latter at first slip off an otherwise under-par Jasprit Bumrah.
Batting was difficult throughout the game; but New Zealand coped better under the circumstances. Thereby, India are yet to capture an ICC title under Virat Kohli’s captaincy.
Indeed, it boiled down to a red ball ODI; but a battle of attrition between bat and ball, not the slam-bang-wallop of white ball settings on surfaces favouring batsmen. Much depended on India’s celebrated upper-middle order as the Indians resumed on the 6th and final morning at 64 for 2. But the trio disappointed.
The 6’8″ Kyle Jamieson produced another penetrative spell. He beat Kohli twice outside the off-stump, then rapped him on the pads, before forcing him to play away from his body. Pujara was pushed on to the backfoot and compelled to negotiate a delivery, which, too, finished in the slips.
Ajinkya Rahane drove and pulled with assurance. But he was caught in two minds against a legside delivery which he edged to wicketkeeper B.J. Watling, who resiliently continued keeping even after dislocating his right ring finger later.
Rishab Pant lived dangerously. But he combined his airy-fairy strokes with some exquisite drives. The 23-year-old is undoubtedly talented; but he needs to cultivate technique and temperament. Reportedly feeling unwell, he gave way to Wriddhiman Saha with the gloves after Tea.
Whether the New Zealand pacers exploited the atmosphere and the pitch better than their Indian counterparts or there was less assistance in the mid-afternoon sun when India got their opportunity with the new ball, the latter were palpably not as effective.
New Zealand has a population of five million or 0.36 per cent of India’s. The country’s investment in cricket is negligible compared to the outlay in India. A David versus Goliath scenario. Yet, David, because of better utilisation of limited resources, slayed Goliath.
The Indian cricket side, on this special occasion delightfully kitted in traditional sweaters, are fortunate that almost wherever in the world they play, there’s no dearth of their supporters among the spectators.
They mushroomed carrying conch shells and blew them vigorously in the hope of resisting the evil spirits — as the superstitious do at times of earthquakes. But the plaintiff sound of wind instruments failed to impact on incisiveness of the New Zealand swing merchants.
Every time an Indian boundary uncoiled amid the clatter of wickets or a New Zealand batsman got out, the fans would discover their voices with fresh but forlorn shouts of “INDIA JEETEGA”.
For the first time in a week, the sun shone brightly out of a cloudless blue sky on Wednesday. The green outfield with patterned squares looked glorious. The elegant architecture of the modern facility resplendent. But the Indian batting disintegrated.
In six successive Test innings against New Zealand, Kohli’s team failed to cross 250; out of which they have four times been dismissed for less than 200. This underlines an inability to tackle movement in the air and off the seam.
Admittedly, the Black Caps enjoyed two advantages. English conditions are similar to New Zealand’s; and having played two Tests against England in the run-up to the WTC final, their preparation was perfect. But then India knew this.
Other than 1986, the first half of an English summer – and the month of June falls into this category – has invariably been Indian cricket’s Waterloo. In IANS’s preview of the WTC final, we had flagged whether it had been wise of India to abjure a warm-up engagement before such a priceless fixture.
How could BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, with his extensive background at the highest level of the game, have allowed the Indians to become lambs for slaughter?
Watching the match, former India spinner Dilip Doshi, who spent some 15 years playing county or league cricket in England, said: “For much of the game, the Indians looked like playing a practice match.”
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)