Changes India Need To Make To Win The Test Championship

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Changes India Need To Make To Win The Test Championship

10 Sep 2019 219 Views Team Baba Naik

Starting from August 1, 2019, and ending on June 2021, the World Test Championship (WTC) will be played for two years where teams will meet like any other bilateral series. However, these series will have context, and the teams will battle it out for points to qualify for the finals at Lord’s where one team will be crowned as the first World Test Champions. The top nine teams of the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings as of 31 March 2018- Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies- will have the chance to be named the World Test Champions.

In all, 72 test matches will be played across 27 series to decide the world champion. Each team will play 6 other nations that have qualified for the World Test Championship in which 3 of the series will be played at home and the other 3 series will be away series. Each series will be worth 120 points. If it is a 2-match series, each match will be risworth 60 points, and if it is a 5-match series, each match will be worth 24 points. A tie will give both teams 50% of the points allocated for that match. A draw will give each team 33% of the points allocated for that match.

India's journey so far...

India started their World Test Championship campaign playing West Indies in the Caribbean, where they beat the hosts comprehensively 2-0. Now, they head home for a few months to face the Proteas to start their second series. After their fight with the men from South Africa, India will face their neighbors, Bangladesh, in a 2-test series. After India’s long stay at home, the journey to the home of the blackcaps where they will play two test matches. After India’s tour of New Zealand, India does not take part in the World Test Championship for many months. When India rejoin the tournament, they will take off for the land Down Under.

                                  The Test Championship table currently.

The selection of India’s playing XI will be crucial for the success of India in the World Test Championship. The openers will be important to set the foundation for a good score. Although for the past two years India has been the No. 1 test team in the world, there will be a few concerns in the batting lineup, especially when exposed to the swinging and bouncing pitches in Australia and New Zealand. The top order made the same mistakes while touring South Africa, England, and Australia of going for the flamboyant drives and edging to the slips or the keeper. India needs solid batsmen who have the temperament to wait patiently on the back foot.

The young turks...

Alongside Mayank Agarwal, who is himself only four matches old, the Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Shubman Gill should be considered to open. He has the temperament to leave and block deliveries and can accelerate at any moment if needed. He also boasts a strong record in First-Class cricket. Playing for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy and for India A, he has featured in 13 matches and has aggregated more than 1300 runs at an average of 74.88 along with 4 centuries and 7 fifties. He became the youngest Indian player at the age of nineteen to score a double hundred in First-Class cricket. In the recently concluded India A series in the Carribean, he top-scored in the two test matches that he played in, scoring 244 runs at an average of 122.00. He has experience playing in tough conditions, such as the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand and touring the same country with the senior side in 2019.

                     Pant has shown great promise so far. Image: AP

Rishabh Pant has begun his international test career and has nearly secured his spot in the test team. Pant has played 11 international test matches in which he scored 2 centuries and 2 half-centuries. Pant has an average of 44.35 in his 11 matches. Though Pant has not a lot of international test cricket, his first-class career is exceptional. He has scored 6 hundred and 10 fifties with an average of 50.97 in 34 test matches. Rishabh Pant also has a good record playing overseas which will help India in the 3 away series that they will be playing. In nine away matches, Pant has an average of 38.00 with 2 hundred to his name. Though Pant had a poor series in the West Indies, he will look to up the ante against the men from South Africa. Pant also serves as the wicketkeeper since Saha got injured.

Another newcomer is Manish Pandey who is likely to make an impact on India’s middle order. Though Manish Pandey has not started his international test career, he has an excellent first-class record with 19 hundreds and 29 half-centuries at an average of 52.00. 

The superstars at 3 and 4....

 The openers may not have much experience, the experience can be found in the next few batsmen. Cheteshwar Pujara has been the key to success in the past. In the 70 test matches he has played on the international stage, his strike rate is 46.37. He provides the stability in the batting lineup and is essentially ‘the rock’. He is very patient and can hold one end down while the other is scoring the runs. In the recent series in Down Under, he saw off the bowling at the beginning of his innings and scored more runs as the innings progressed. In all seven innings, his highest strike rate was 51.74. However, he was the highest run-scorer in the series with 521 runs at a staggering average of 74.43 with three centuries. Despite not playing so well in the Carribean, he will be looking to score big runs against the touring Proteas in October. Pujara should be the number three batsman for India due to his temperament to stay at the crease and play out the overs.

                       Kohli has been excellent as a Test captain for India.

Virat Kohli at number 4 has transformed the face of Indian cricket. Kohli is essential in the World Test Championship if India is to win the tournament. Kohli is an aggressive player who likes to score runs but knows the pace at which he must go at. Kohli is an experienced player with 79 international test matches and 111 first-class matches under his belt. Kohli has a brilliant average of 53.14 with 25 centuries to his name. During the series of the West Indies, he looked solid at the crease, scoring back-to-back fifties and looks in good form for the home series against South Africa.

The middle order...

The middle-order is an important part of India’s long batting lineup. There are many cricketers that could fill the position of a middle-order batsman. A capable middle-order batsman who is in terrific form is Shreyas Iyer. In IPL 2019, he was the third-highest run-getter for his team with 463 runs with three fifties. He leads Delhi Capitals to their first playoffs since 2012 and almost to their first finals. Adding to that, he has recently been in extremely good touch. Playing for India A in the West Indies in July, he scored 187 runs at an average of 62.33. Earlier in the year in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he scored the second-most runs, accumulating 484 runs in 10 innings. He also batted exceptionally well in the ODIs against West Indies, smashing 2 fifties in 2 innings at an average of 68.00 and a strike rate of 124.77. His ability to maneuver the spinners around the ground helps keep the scoreboard ticking and to rotate the strike. His backfoot game is very good and will come in handy when India tour Australia and New Zealand in 2020.

                Hanuma Vihari has made a real statement for India. Image: Getty

Hanuma Vihari has made a statement in the four matches he has played in Australia and England and the two games in the Carribean. He scored a half-century in swinging conditions at The Oval and played out a deadly short ball ploy in the Boxing Day test match in Melbourne. In the West Indies, Vihari fell short of a century by seven runs in the first test but got his first international century in the very next game, scoring another fifty in the same game. However, in the two times, he has opened, he has scored 13 and 7. His average improves by 44 when he bats at 6, where he has three fifties and a century. He is more suited for the middle order because his weakness is the bouncer. In First-Class cricket, he has an average of 60.30 batting in the middle order. He has sealed his spot in the middle order and will look to continue his good form in the test series against the Proteas.

The bowling attack...

 veterans of the game are still major factors in the middle order. India’s spin attack can be spearheaded with the trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, and Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin has been in the test team for many years and is still making a difference for the Indian team and will have a big impact in this World Test Championship. He provides good experience in the bowling lineup and has the ability to bat and bowl. Ashwin has a batting average of 29.14 with 4 centuries and 11 half-centuries under his name. He has large amounts of experience, playing 65 international test matches. Ashwin has got 342 wickets in 65 matches and also has an economy of 2.84 and an average of 25.43. Despite not playing in either test in the Caribbean, he will be looking to make amends in the three test match series against South Africa.

India will play three home series against South Africa, Bangladesh, and England. Kuldeep Yadav will help with his left-arm wrist spin on spinning Indian tracks. Kuldeep Yadav has had an abysmal past four months, starting with the IPL and then the World Cup. However, he has 24 test wickets under his name and has an average of 24.12 and an economy of 3.51. He took a five-wicket haul against Australia at Sydney earlier this year. Also, while playing for India in the practice game in the West Indies, he picked up three wickets for 35 runs. He will be wanting to get back into some form during the home series later this year.

Another player packed with experience is Ravindra Jadeja. Jadeja has been an integral part of the Indian test team. He is valued in his ability to bat and ball maturely. His fielding is second to none and his bowling is quick and accurate. Jadeja’s batting has improved drastically, scoring eighties against England and Australia in their own backyard and hitting his maiden century against the West Indies. In the recently concluded series against the Windies, he hit a patient 122-ball 58. He is a test regular and takes the all-rounder position.

       Bumrah has been India's Mr. Dependable in the bowling department.

Having a bank of three specialist fast bowlers on a tour will be vital to India’s success in the World Test Championship. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, and Jasprit Bhumrah can form the core of the pace attack. During the World Test Championship, India will tour the West Indies, Australia, and New Zealand. India has already completed their tour of the West Indies, whitewashing them in red-ball cricket. In the two test matches, Bumrah took 13 wickets, including two 5-wicket hauls, his best bowling figures of 6/27, and a hat-trick that rattled the opposition. He boasted an average of 9.23 and a strike rate of 22.69. Shami performed brilliantly against the men in maroon, taking 9 wickets at an average of 17.78. He offered good support to Bumrah, pressuring the batsmen with a strike rate of 34.00. In the remaining series against Australia and New Zealand, Bhuvneshwar will be extremely valuable for his ability to swing the ball both ways. Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have been phenomenal for India. They swing and seam the ball with high pace and accuracy. Together, they are lethal bowlers who can take any batsman's wicket on any day. During the tour to Australia, the two took almost half of the wickets for India: Bumrah had 21 and Shami had 16. 

Team Baba Naik

Bharat Army Writer


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