It might have been the same old story for India in an ICC final but what stood out about this defeat was the nature of their dismissals especially in the second innings, when the conditions at The Oval were perhaps the most batting-friendly they had been in the Test match. So Rohit Sharma ended up sweeping a ball too full, Cheteshwar Pujara upper-cut one straight into the hands of the keeper and Virat Kohli chased a wide one once again.
Speaking after the 209-run loss to Australia at The Oval, Rohit defended the Indian batters, arguing that it wasn’t the “lack of concentration” that brought about their downfall but the will to “play in a different way” that didn’t quite work out on this occasion.
“We have played so many ICC tournaments and have not won yet. So our effort is to play in a different way and try to do something different,” Rohit said.
“It’s not a lapse of concentration. We have told the boys to play freely. And if it seems so, then hit. It’s a simple message. Whether it’s Test cricket, T20 cricket or one day cricket, we don’t want to play under pressure. If you look at the innings, the way Gill and I started in the second innings, our entire effort was to hit and play and put pressure on them. That’s why we were 60 runs in 10 overs. But if you play with that mindset, chances are you’ll get out. Then the comments and the people who talk about lapse of concentration. There is no lapse of concentration. It’s just that we want to play in a different way. We want to do something different.”
Rohit said that India also subscribes to the modern, disruptive brand of Test cricket, which encompasses a more risky brand of batting that comes with its promise and pitfalls. And that’s a style that India, without an ICC trophy since 2013, will stick to in the upcoming ODI World Cup back home too according to Rohit.
“Test cricket is played in a different way these days now. And that’s how we want to play as well. And it was a good pitch. You could play the shots that you want to,” Rohit said. “Of course, keeping in mind, you know, if somebody is bowling a really good spell, you try and respect that. But otherwise, you have to try and do something different just to break the bowler’s rhythm.
“And that is what Travis Head did. He came and played some shots. And he really got them out of that discomfort zone… We really thought we were, you know, quite in the game and then the way Travis Head came and played, he completely took the game away from us. And that is what we want to do as well. When you know the pitch is good, sometimes you have to let your instinct take those calls in the middle.
“And yeah, I don’t think it was a concentration lapse or anything like that. It’s just, sometimes guys feel that they’re comfortable playing certain shots and they’re allowed to go and play those shots.
“When the World Cup will be held in October, we will try to play in a different way. We will try to give people freedom and not think that we have to win this or that match. We have been thinking that this match is important, this event is important and things are not happening. So obviously We will have to think differently and do things differently. Our message and focus will be on trying to do something different.”
India coach Rahul Dravid, speaking to Star Sports after the game, felt it “wasn’t a 469 wicket” and India’s bowling performance in the first couple of sessions on Day 1 came back to bite them. But Rohit instead felt the experienced batters in the side, who have been there and done that in England before, couldn’t quite stand up and that cost them the title.
“When you have in your top six, you know, five or six batters who have quite experience played in these conditions before and couldn’t go on to get big runs and that is what probably cost us the game,” Rohit said. “But yeah, I mean, look, I don’t want to be too critical about it. The reason I say that is because when we were here last time, a lot of the senior batters actually put their hand up and got us ahead in the series. I mean, things like this can happen. We’ve had really good outings in the last two years. Whether we played in Australia or England, but yeah, like you said, this one-off game, if you’re mentally not there, you can lose a game. You know, and that is exactly what happened.”
It was also the second consecutive loss for India in a World Test Championship final. Both have been held straight after a long couple of months of IPL, something which, to be fair, hasn’t given India ample time to prepare.
“June is not the only month we should play the finals,” Rohit suggested. “It can be played any time of the year. And anywhere in the world, not just in England.
“For an event like this, a final like this, you need a lot of time to prepare yourself and that is what we did in the last time when we were here in England. We had a good 25-30 days to prepare ourselves. And you saw the result. We were 2-1 up until that game got called off. Yeah, ideally, we would want to have a good time in hand to prepare, and give enough rest to the bowlers. Sometimes it can be tough because playing T20 cricket, you completely bowl different lengths, different lines and a lot of change-ups.
“And then Test cricket obviously requires a lot of discipline, hitting that area consistently and challenging the batsmen – but again you know Shami, Siraj, Umesh they all are experienced, they obviously know how to prepare themselves and get ready for a game like this. But in an ideal scenario, yes, I would prefer it if we have 20-25 days to prepare for a game like this.”
Would a three-Test WTC final make for a better option? “I would love that. But is there a time?” Rohit asked. “That’s the big question. But honestly, in a big event like this, you need to have fair opportunities for both the teams. You know, a three-match series would be nice, but it’s about finding that window where it can fit in. In an event like this, you work hard for two years and then you have only one shot at it. So, you cannot get into that momentum that you need in Test cricket. You know, Test cricket is all about finding that rhythm, finding that momentum as well. So, I think, yeah if in the next cycle, if it is possible, a three-match series would be ideal.”