@swaris16 4 minute read
No team except for India had more than three captains in the second cycle of the World Test Championship. India had five, due to a number of reasons, varying from shock resignations, Covid, workload management and injuries. Virat Kohli captained India at the start of the edition, in seven Tests, before stepping down following the 2-1 loss in South Africa. Rohit Sharma was named his successor.
However, frequent injuries meant that he only managed to lead six games since being named full-time captain, all of which were in India. He missed three overseas Tests – the fifth match against England and the tour of Bangladesh in December 2022, with KL Rahul captaining India three times during the 2021-2023 cycle and Ajinkya Rahane and Jasprit Bumrah both doing so once each.
India played 18 Tests in the second World Test Championship, including eight at home and ten away, of which two were in Bangladesh. They played five Tests in England, winning two games, and won a match in South Africa in the three-match series there. Overall, they won ten games and drew three. Five points were deducted for slow over rates.
Kohli led India in seven Tests, winning four – of which three were away. Rohit also won four matches in six outings, but all his victories came at home. Rahul led India in three games, with two wins against Bangladesh.
Rohit as Test skipper in the 2021/23 WTC cycle
When India takes on Australia at the Kia Oval for the WTC final, it will be the first time that Rohit will lead the Test team away from home. Since being named full-time captain of the side in January 2022, Rohit has led India in six matches – all in India (two against Sri Lanka in February 2022; four against Australia in 2023). India won four games under him, with one loss and a draw.
Ahead of the series against Australia this year, India needed to win three matches to make the final of the WTC. However, they qualified despite a 2-1 result after New Zealand managed to beat Sri Lanka on the last ball in Christchurch, in one of the most dramatic Test wins. It could have been tricky otherwise. If Sri Lanka had won both of their games in New Zealand, India would have crashed out. While they were helped by the Kiwis, their excellent start to the 2021-23 WTC cycle came to their aid as well.
With a PCT (percentage of points won) of 58.80, India just about finished above South Africa (PCT of 55.56) in the 2021/23 WTC points table, with their overseas performances helping them nudge ahead.
India won five games away – the most in this period. Two wins came against Bangladesh (led by Rahul), while two were against England in 2021, and one versus South Africa. The wins in the SENA countries had Kohli at the helm and ended up playing a pivotal role in India’s progress to the final.
Kohli as Test skipper in the 2021/23 WTC cycle
If India had lost all three Test away games in SENA, they would have ended with a PCT of 42.13, which would not have been enough to take them through. If all other results stayed exactly the same but India won two instead of three overseas Tests, they would have stumbled even then, with a PCT of 53.24, ending below South Africa.
Even if India won all eight games at home in this period and registered a 2-0 triumph in Bangladesh, they could have still missed out if they did not register a single win in either England or South Africa, with the Proteas potentially overtaking them. The importance of winning a game in the two countries was, thus, crucial if India wanted to make their second WTC final.
India have a staggering record at home, last losing a series in 2012-13, and the wins against Sri Lanka and Australia were not unexpected. However, they needed to do more, and Kohli leading India to three wins in England and South Africa early on also provided some breathing space to the side as the edition progressed, even allowing them to drop games at home. Since 2000, India had won four games in England and three in South Africa before 2021, indicating just how mammoth the achievements were.
While the credit for the overseas wins needs to go to the entire squad, the captain’s efforts cannot be ignored either, for he is the one who is responsible for making last-minute bowling changes and inspired field placements. Kohli had shone in this regard in 2021, be it with his usage of Ravindra Jadeja, described as “clever” by Nasser Hussain, at the Kia Oval, or bringing on Mohammed Siraj at the dying stages of the Lord’s Test.
A good start to any competition is vital – just ask England, who missed out on the final despite winning nine of their last ten Test matches – and winning three overseas Tests in countries where India have not done well traditionally, is an even superior feat. While we laud Rohit for guiding the team to their second successive WTC final and leading from the front with the bat, let us also celebrate Kohli the Test skipper once again, for laying the foundation, getting the job done in tough countries and opening up the doors for India’s entry into the final. Without the three overseas wins, India might not have been here.
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