WTC Final: With Indian middle-order batters past their prime, is it time for transition? | Cricket News – Times of India

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The Indian middle-order has been in the ICU for a while and it is clear that the batters are past their prime
Well stocked with most things that money can buy, the BCCI and members of the Indian cricket team brains trust could probably invest in the humble mirror – so that they can take a good look at themselves and where their cricket is heading after yet another reversal in a global tournament.

After their 209-run loss to Australia in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at the Oval on Sunday, and the statements coming from the Indian camp, one feels that the time to look in the mirror cannot come sooner.

Another WTC Final, another loss for Team India

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Another WTC Final, another loss for Team India

Head coach Rahul Dravid, who has been ultra-conservative with selection and tactics, chose to let his celebrated batting line-up off rather lightly and make the bowlers the fall-guys. “It wasn’t a 469 wicket,” Dravid told Star Sports after India’s thrashing. “On the first day, last session, conceding 157 was disappointing,” he assessed.

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Yes, the bowlers were wayward in that session, but it was also on the back of a spirited show from them – especially Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Ravindra Jadeja that allowed India to stay in the game. The prima donnas of the team, the batters, flopped when it mattered. The same “selective criticism template” had played out in the last WTC final, where Ashwin was made the fall guy for the defeat to New Zealand in Southampton.
After the T20 World Cup semifinal thrashing to England at Adelaide too, skipper Rohit Sharma pinned the blame on the bowlers and never mentioned that India had reached barely 62 for 2 after 10 overs with the captain himself scoring a laborious 28-ball 27.

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Dravid, who took the call with the selectors to bite the transition bullet by dropping Pujara and Rahane for the two-match home series against Sri Lanka last year to bring in Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari to play their roles, chose to drive in the reverse again and reinstated the experienced middle-order duo. It was a slap on the faces of players who scorch the scoresheets in domestic cricket.
“The same boys won in Australia, in England. They will accept that they didn’t do justice to their high standards. Some of the wickets have been quite challenging. This was a good wicket, but other conditions weren’t good for batting. Every game is important in the WTC. You need points, can’t play for draws. So everywhere, the wickets have been tough. All players have taken a hit with averages, not just our players,” Dravid analysed.

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It was a convenient statement. The truth is the middle-order has been in ICU for a while. Star batter Virat Kohli, who perished once again to a delivery on the sixth stump on the off-side, averages 32.13 in the last WTC cycle. Pujara averages 32. The recently resurrected Rahane averages 24.64.
These are underwhelming numbers highlighting the fact that they are past their prime.
If you look at the numbers of other middle-order batters in the same period, Dravid’s “averages have taken a hit all around” claim falls flat. Joe Root averages 53.1, Steve Smith 50.08, Marnus Labuschagne 53.8, Babar Azam 61.08, Jonny Bairstow 51.4 and Travis Head 52.5.

Gavaskar rightly slammed the coach for his assessment. “It doesn’t matter what the other players’ averages are. We are talking about the Indian team. The Indian players’ averages are falling. Is the level of coaching not what you require? Is there not much of analysis about areas where you lack? Honest self-assessment is an absolute necessity,” he told Star Sports. With no India ‘A’ tour programme in sight, no policy to reward domestic performers, no chief selector, that honest self-assessment could be hard to come by.
Indian cricket may be blessed with talent that one can pick from a lengthy conveyor belt. But if deserving players who toil in the Ranji Trophy aren’t groomed and blooded at the right time, disillusionment and a shift to the instant fame and riches of T20 franchise cricket will dry up that talent pool.
Look no further than West Indies where Team India starts its next WTC cycle.

CRICKET-AI-1





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