2 Blunders By Rohit Sharma That Led To India’s Defeat In WTC Final 2023: What started as a day of great hope and expecting another miracle like Gabba 2021, ended in just over a couple of hours with utter disappointment and frustration for the Indian fans.
India started Day 5 of the WTC Final 2023 at The Oval needing 280 more runs to win the ‘Ultimate Test’ with 7 wickets in hand, and two set batters in Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane at the crease.
However, Virat Kohli’s dismissal in the first half hour gave the momentum to Australia who pounced on the other batters and bowled India out in the first session itself to clinch the WTC mace and the title for the best Test team over the past two years with a big victory margin of 209 runs.
Australia were clinical with both bat and ball throughout the match and deservedly won the WTC Final. India and skipper Rohit Sharma made their fair share of mistakes too, and will have plenty to rue about when they reflect on this big loss, which extended India’s wait for an ICC trophy.
Here are 2 big mistakes made by India captain Rohit Sharma leading to India’s defeat in the WTC Final 2023:
Excluding R Ashwin for this big finale
Right from the start of the match, India’s bowling combination selection was under heavy scrutiny and criticism as they left out champion off-spinner R Ashwin and instead went with pacers Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav, believing that the conditions at The Oval were much more friendly to pacers than spinners.
Ashwin has 474 Test wickets to his name. He’s currently ranked the number 1 ICC Test bowler and number 2 all-rounder. He averages 28 in Tests in England, which is brilliant for a spinner; he averages 28 against Australia too, which is a remarkable feat and has dominated Australian batters significantly over the last couple of series, including getting the better of Australia’s best batsman, Steve Smith, in Australian conditions as well; Australia had 4 left-handers in their top 7, which would have brought Ashwin largely into play even if he didn’t get a lot assistance from the surface.
While Shardul Thakur did score a fighting fifty in the first innings – which also involved a dismissal off a no-ball from Pat Cummins – Thakur and Umesh were largely ineffective with the ball, failing to either pick wickets or contain runs, allowing Australia to get away after seeing off Shami and Siraj in the first hour on Day 1.
The non-selection of R Ashwin is something India might rue as even if Ashwin wouldn’t have been among the wickets, he could have been banked upon to control the run flow and create pressure on the Aussie batters, allowing other bowlers to penetrate.
Decision to bowl first
Sharma won an important and crucial coin toss in the WTC Final 2023. The India captain elected to bowl first, citing overcast conditions and some green grass on the surface.
It seems that Rohit, and head coach Rahul Dravid, opted to bowl only based on conditions for the early hour at The Oval, and didn’t bother to look at the forecast for the remainder of the match. Because after the morning on Day 1, there was all bright sunshine throughout the 5 days of the match.
Coming to the pitch, Sharma and Rahul Dravid also perhaps read the surface wrongly, as, the commentators and pitch experts would point out, it was dry underneath the green grass. These conditions and pitch would have also influenced Sharma and Rahul Dravid’s decision to drop R Ashwin. After the first session on Day 1, Smith and Travis Head piled up centuries, virtually batting India out of the game.
In big finals, batting first and putting runs on the board is crucial and more often than not, leads to victories and commanding the game.
It can be said that India’s choices on the morning of the Test match cost them the World Test Championship Final.