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WTC final: After a cowardly capitulation at The Oval, it’s time to make difficult choices

There are many qualities about the Indian Test team to be admired—many of the players have participated in the journey during which the team has faced genuine challenges away from home and advanced to back-to-back World Test Championship (WTC) finals—but every team eventually reaches a point where a major reset is necessary. Last week’s tame defeat at The Oval should serve as a sobering reminder that Team India needs a new framework right once, and the supporting beams that supported the old one need to be removed.

In spite of the fact that they lack a chairperson, the Indian selectors must consider the larger picture and make some difficult decisions. They must trust their instincts and take a risk.

The conclusion of the 2023 World Tennis Championship revealed that India has stagnated, if not declined. The same group of hitters participated in the WTC 2021 championship match versus New Zealand. They had to bat out for time on Day 6 back then, but they lost after going from 64/2 overnight to 170 all out. There was a similar fall in London as well. The sameness also raised a crucial query: Have Rohit Sharma and company improved or are they still at the same level as before?

This has nothing to do with the leadership of Rohit Sharma, a misguided drive by Virat Kohli, a fumbling effort by Cheteshwar Pujara, or a missed conversion by Ajinkya Rahane. It’s about anticipating the passage of time and determining if these seniors, all veterans and outstanding representatives of Indian cricket, will in fact be our best prospects when the WTC final is played at Lord’s in two years. Will they even succeed the next time?

It’s not only a matter of age, though. But given how often the top order has failed, it is difficult to believe that the talented Indian cricket scene won’t be able to find successors. Since Abhimanyu Easwaran is competing, Devdutt Padikkal is calling, Yashasvi Jaiswal is banging on the door, Ruturaj Gaikwad has been around, and this is only the tip of the talent iceberg.

Blooding them at the greatest level is the key to finding replacements. However, how can it happen if the selectors don’t look beyond the seniors?

The administration of the squad made the appropriate choice in informing wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha that he would no longer be considered for the Indian team. Saha, of course, was never as well-known as the senior batters named above, but it was also very simple to talk to Saha about it since Rishabh Pant had established himself on the world stage. Nevertheless, the strategy and approach were sound.

Now, coach Rahul Dravid must have a similar discussion with some of the seniors; if he is unable to do so, the selectors must step in.

The world No. 1 bowler R Ashwin, who should have been automatically included based on the identical reasoning used by the batsmen, was kept out, which made the situation irrationally worse.

Even Sachin Tendulkar, who often stays out of public debates regarding the squad, expressed doubt about the decision. The number one Test bowler in the world, @ashwinravi99, was left out of the starting XI, which baffles me. As I had previously indicated, skilled spinners don’t only depend on turning tracks; they can also conceal their changes by using air drift and surface bounce. Not to mention, 5 of Australia’s top 8 hitters were left-handed, Tendulkar said in a tweet on squad selection.

Overall however, it’s crucial to consider what India has learned from the two-year WTC cycle. Do they have any more insight into the future now? Have they recognised their weaknesses?

It is obvious that the batting unit is unable to complete the task. India has often required assistance from the lower order, and it is now impossible to overlook this lack of consistency. No matter how large and accomplished a player may be, change is necessary for the team’s overall success.

There is, of course, the balancing issue. Although it is impossible to remove all of the seniors at once, the process must start. If anybody knows this well, it’s David.

Dravid, as the junior team’s coach, would make sure there was enough upcoming potential while Ravi Shastri and Kohli were in charge of the senior squad. Are there now no suitable alternatives? Or are there others in their way? The second scenario is more probable than the first. The sacrifice must be made.

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