A defeat was looming high ever since Australia piled up 469 runs in the first innings. The pressure increased even more after the Rohit Sharma-led side conceded a 173-run first innings lead.
India always played the catch-up game after a mammoth 285-run stand between centurions Steve Smith and Travis Head for the fourth wicket. India were bundled out for 234 runs in the second innings – 51 less than the partnership between Smith and Head.
While the reasons for the massive defeat are many, we have shortlisted the top three reasons why India lost the WTC Final 2023.
Big names, timid performances
Virat Kohli is called the chase master. He has scored over 25000 international runs and smashed 75 hundreds – second only to the great Sachin Tendulkar but he could score just 14 in the first innings and threw away his wicket after scoring 49 in the second.
Cheteshwar Pujara is a Test specialist who was playing in England conditions since the last two months was caught off guard in front of the Australian pace attack. He scored 14 in the first innings and 47 in the second.
Rohit Sharma’s poor record in an ICC final continued. The captain scored 15 in the first innings and 43 in the second. His fashion of dismissals were in the ‘Hitman’ stature he carries with him. He missed the line on one occasion and played an abrupt sweep shot to just get trapped in front of the stumps by Nathan Lyon.
Mohammed Shami was expected to lead the Indian bowling attack with brilliance, however, his impact in the match was minimal. In his first outing in the match, the pacer picked just two wickets after conceding 122 runs in 29 overs at an economy rate of 4.20. In the second innings as well, he picked two wickets but those were of Mitchell Starc who scored 41 and Pat Cummins who came down with a motive to just score some quick runs and declare Australia innings.
Four big players and four below-par performances doomed India’s fate once again.
Questionable team selection
The world number one Test bowler Ravichandran Ashwin was not picked in the eleven as Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur played ahead of him. While Shardul justified his selection with wickets of David Warner, Steve Smith, and a fighting 51-run knock in the first innings, Umesh disappointed big time.
23 overs for 77 runs without a wicket in the first innings saw India lose the advantage of reducing Australia to 76 for three in the first innings. The Australia batters scored freely against him and pressure created by Shami and Mohammed Siraj evaporated soon.
Playing Umesh over Ashwin could have been a justified selection if he had possessed a quality of someone like Scott Boland but his record in overseas Tests have never been good. Moreover, the Oval surface is known to support the spinners through the course of the game.
Nathan Lyon picked four wickets in the second innings and that will force the management to ponder upon their decision for a while.
KS Bharat played ahead of Ishan Kishan and failed miserably with the bat, scoring 5 and 23 across the two innings. Many predicted that he would be a walking wicket in English conditions and they were right.
Even someone like Ricky Ponting had suggested India to play Kishan who is a more like-to-like replacement for Rishabh Pant because of his attacking nature of batting which could have turned the match on its head at any point of the match.
Lack of preparation
Indian players went straight to the UK for the WTC Final 2023 after playing the shortest format of the game at franchise level (IPL 2023). The limited practice sessions held were also optional at times. The attitude of the team towards a match as big as the WTC final is debatable.
In complete contrast, Australian players including Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne were playing county cricket and others like Mitchell Star and Pat Cummins opted out of the IPL. The Australian team also were the more serious team during their net sessions. The hard work has paid off for them.