Celebrated batting line-up comes unstuck on big stage again against relentless Boland and Lyon as India lose seven wickets for 70
A day that began with great hope for millions of Indian cricket lovers ended in despair as India lost seven wickets for 70 runs to cap another big-stage failure and Australia underlined their domination of world cricket to win the World Test Championship (WTC) final at the Oval on Sunday by 209 runs.
Their triumph, achieved after just 23.3 overs of relentless bowling on Day Five, makes them the first team to win the full set of Men’s ICC titles, having won the ODI World Cup five times (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015), the Champions Trophy twice (2006, 2009) and the T20 World Cup once (2021).

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For India, it’s time to not just lick their wounds, but also accept responsibility for a period of sustained failures on the big occasion.
For starters, they can stop hiding behind platitudes like “40 minutes of bad cricket”, “Bad two hours”, “Same players have performed well overseas”.
When Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane resumed their innings with the score at 164 for 3 on Sunday and India still were 280 runs away from an improbable win, there was apprehension, but also a desire to see the team scrap. What one saw was a king-size implosion.

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And the Achilles heel, once again, was the batting, as it has been for the last 18 months. India’s top five averages an underwhelming 33.4 since January 2022, the lowest among the top six teams. Kohli, India’s star player, last scored a Test ton outside Asia in 2018 in Perth.
Cheteshwar Pujara averages 29 across all Tests since 2020.
Time and again, especially outside Asia, India have been saved by their bowlers and the lower order. Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have played saviours. R Ashwin and Axar Patel did that in India and Bangladesh.

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Is it time for a transition and a phasing out of some senior batters as the next WTC cycle begins for India from the West Indies tour in July and August? Or will a thrashing of the West Indies in West Indies and increased focus on white-ball games, considering this is the year of the ODI World Cup, sweep this defeat under the carpet?
A few questions will need to be asked about the support staff too. When Rahul Dravid was appointed coach in November 2021, it was done so with a lot of fanfare and with the hope that he will deliver trophies on the big stage and build on the good results achieved under Ravi Shastri.

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A lot of credit for India’s success Down Under in 2020-2021 was credited to his work at the NCA and his work with the India A team.
However, with the senior group, he hasn’t been able to improve the technical flaws of the batters, nor take the hard calls involving struggling players. India have let go of good positions in South Africa, England and now in the WTC final to be upstaged and sometimes, embarrassed.

On Day Five, Scott Boland, 34, playing his first Test in England, tested Kohli with an outside off-stump line for a while and then gave him the full and wide sucker ball. Kohli (49), fell for the bait and a diving Steve Smith at second slip, gobbled it. To call the shot poor would be euphemistic.
India great Sunil Gavaskar lashed out at the star on air. “He talks so much about how to win a match you need a long innings. How are you going to do that if you play a ball so far outside the off stump?”

Two balls later, Boland went round the sumps to the left-handed Jadeja, angled it in and seamed it away and got the edge. India’s fight had been snuffed out.
The top-scorer in the first innings, Ajinkya Rahane (46) added 33 with KS Bharat, but with another 50 in sight, he played a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc on the up and edged it to wicket-keeper Alex Carey.

The way Nathan Lyon mopped up the tail would add to the embarrassment of the team management who took the bizarre call to drop Ashwin.
Dravid as a captain, vice-captain and senior player was involved in decisions like batting first at Leeds (2002), Perth (2008), Johannesburg (2006) in tough conditions, getting the runs on the board and putting the rivals under scoreboard pressure. As a coach, in the WTC final, he was involved in the timid decision to bowl first on a good pitch. Was it to protect some of the team’s batters, who appear past their sell-by-date?

Over to the BCCI, who could start by appointing a chief selector.

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