WTC 2023 Final: “I think we have become a bit too tight,” Harbhajan suggests India to play more freely in big games

Australia outplayed India in the first two days of the WTC final.

Australia have dominated India in the WTC final so far | GettyTeam India have been totally outplayed by Australia in the first two days of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 Final.

Skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bowl first. Considering the overcast conditions and a green-tinged pitch at The Oval, Indian bowlers were expected to get the better of the Australian batting line-up.

However, it turned out exactly opposite as the duo of Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121) made a mockery of the Indian bowling attack to propel Australia to a massive 469/10 in the first innings.

In reply, Australia reduced India to 71/4 with key batters like Rohit Sharma (15), Shubman Gill (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (14) and Virat Kohli (14) getting out cheaply.

Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja steadied the ship by adding 71 runs for the fifth wicket. While Jadeja was dismissed for 48, Rahane stayed unbeaten on 29 alongside KS Bharat (5*) as India finished the second day at 151/5, trailing Australia by 318 runs.

Disappointed by India’s performance, former spinner Harbhajan Singh said the current team has not shown the fearlessness that one needs to win ICC titles. Notably, the Indian team hasn’t won an ICC trophy since 2013.

Harbhajan opined that the players become “too tight” in high pressure games and advised them not to worry about the results.

“There is nothing lacking (in terms of skills). The more you play the big games the better you get. I feel you need to play more freely in these big games. I think we have become a bit too tight. Will have to play more freely and not think about the results.

“The more you leave the players to do the job, they will do the job. If you put pressure on them that if you don’t perform well, some get dropped and some don’t (they will feel underconfident).

“The idea is to give them confidence that even if you don’t do well, give your best. That way we will probably lift a few cups. Just play fearlessly,” Harbhajan told PTI.

He was also critical of the Indian team management’s decision to play four pacers in the WTC final.

The No. 1 ranked Test spinner, R Ashwin, was left out of the playing XI as India fielded Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur as seamers and Ravindra Jadeja as sole spinner.

“The game is for five days so you have to choose your bowlers according to those five days. Ashwin is a proven performer, four seamers are a bit too much. Day four, day five are as important as day one. It is also important how you finish the race.

“May be the management did not think too much about it and went ahead with four seamers which is way too many. It was still understandable if someone of the caliber of Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami was sitting out, then it would have still been okay (to play four pacers),” said Harbhajan.

Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur failed to impress in the first innings while Siraj and Shami got more out of the surface.

“Maybe management thought the conditions were more in favour of the seamers. You needed to take a call between Shardul or Ashwin. It is hard on Ashwin to sit out even after taking so many wickets.

“Would have been better to play Ashwin and play two-spinners instead of four seamers, even though wicket was green on day one,” he opined.

Harbhajan concluded by saying that the over reliance on Siraj and Shami does not help the team’s cause.

“It has come down to the captain’s confidence also. The captain had more confidence in Shami and Siraj, they were bowing really well in the IPL also.

“Umesh did not play much coming into this game and same with Shardul. Less bowling did not solve the cause,” he remarked.

(With PTI Inputs)


By Salman Anjum - 09 Jun, 2023

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