London, June 11: India head coach Rahul Dravid believes his bowlers could have done better on The Oval pitch, where they allowed Australia to pile on 469 runs in the first innings of the World Test Championship (WTC) Final and admitted the team had "big players" who could have formed a solid partnership to chase down a daunting 444. On Day One of the clash, Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121) took full advantage of a lacklustre Indian bowling line-up to stitch a 285-run partnership and take Australia's first innings total to 469. It meant India played catchup throughout the match despite a late fightback from Ajinkya Rahane (89), and Shardul Thakur (51) with the bat in the first innings. WTC 2023 Final: 'Let Ourselves Down A Little Bit With How We Bowled' Admits Rohit Sharma.
After conceding a huge 173-run lead, India were set a mammoth 444 to chase. In a bid to break the world record for the most-successful fourth-innings chase in the history of Test cricket, India had filled hopes of acing a tall chase when they began day five from 164/3 in 40 overs. But seamer Scott Boland took out Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja in quick succession, and from there, India were bowled out for 234 in their second innings, eventually losing by 209 runs, the second straight time they lost the WTC Final.
"It was obviously difficult (the target of 444). There's always hope no matter how far we're behind, we can fight back after being behind. Many Tests over the last 2 years where we've fought hard in difficult situations. Needed a big partnership, we had the big players for it, but they had the upper hand. This can happen. It wasn't a 469 pitch. Gave away too many in the last session (on Day 1). We knew what lines and lengths to bowl. Our lengths weren't bad but we probably bowled too wide. Gave room to Head. Some of the shots we played, maybe we could've been more careful," said Dravid to Star Sports after the match ended.
Asked by his former team-mate Sourav Ganguly on the logic behind electing to bowl first, Dravid said pressure didn't play a part at all. "There was a lot of grass on the wicket, and conditions were cloudy (on the decision to bowl first). We've seen in England batting gets easier. There wasn't much help on Day 4 or 5 if you saw. We got them on 70/3, but then let it slip away. Even the last time we played at Edgbaston, the pitch got easier to bat. 300-plus was chased. We could have chased down 300-320 in the final innings of the game."
Dravid was staunch in defense of his top order for not performing when it mattered the most. At The Oval, none of the top-order batters could make fifty in both innings, with Rahane's 89 and Thakur's 51 the best Indian batting efforts coming in the first essay. "Our top five are all very experienced, by their own high standards. These same players have won in Australia, in England. This is not up to their high standards. Some of the wickets have been quite challenging. This was a good pitch I'll admit. But some of the other places it's been tough."
"Even in India pitches have been tough. Taking this into account, averages have dropped across the board, not just for us. Nobody wants wickets to turn from the first ball. But when you are playing for points, in situations like that, you have to take risks. And we aren't the only ones taking risks. Look at Australia, the pitches there. Sometimes the pressure is on you to get those points in every game. It is a risk we have to take." Virat Kohli Completes 5,000 Runs Against Australia, Achieves Feat on Day 4 of IND vs AUS WTC 2023 Final.
With India's ten-year wait for an ICC trophy extending after WTC Final loss, Dravid felt the team is getting closer to winning a major trophy. "We are getting close (to breaking trophy drought). We're getting to semis, to final. Just that we haven't played the best cricket on the day. No one wants it more than the players. Can't fault their efforts. Just haven't played our best cricket on the occasion."
Dravid signed off by admitting a practice match would have been ideal preparation for the WTC final. Barring Cheteshwar Pujara playing county cricket in England, the rest of the Indian players came into the clash on the back of playing IPL 2023. "Never going to be happy with the prep as a coach. But that's the reality we are faced with. Coming here three weeks earlier, having a practice game would be ideal. But we have to make do with what we can. Don't think we should make excuses."
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 11, 2023 07:43 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).