Statement one -“If you’re talking about Test cricket and deciding who is the best test team in the world on one game, over a period of five days, that’s not the reality of the truth. It’s not going to reflect anything to all the people who really understand the game and know exactly what has gone on in the last four or five years and how the teams have fared” – Virat Kohli on 17th June 2021
Statement two –“It’s the ‘big daddy of all World Cups’. I’ve played the 1983 World Cup, commentated on a few of them but this one is the biggest of them all. It’s the toughest format, the biggest format, and the job satisfaction is maximum.” – Ravi Shastri on 19th June
If you do not follow cricket that keenly, then by simply reading the above quotes you may assume that Kohli and Shastri are not part of the same team management. Or at least, they can’t be the captain and head coach of the same team with polar opposite point of views. Or was that the subtle way of covering all the bases off the field? If we win, no problem in hailing and reiterating this result as the greatest win in Indian cricket or even world cricket if you take the hyperbole nature of Shastri seriously. If we lose then of course, it is not a matter of life and death.
However, the fact of the matter is that India once again failed to rise to the occasion of an ICC final. The quest for the validation of being one of the all-time great Test teams of modern era continues for Kohli. Kane Williamson may be not be universally regarded as the batting genius like his counterpart but when it mattered most, it was his hundred plus runs across the two innings of the ‘ultimate Test’ which proved to be pivotal in New Zealand claiming the WTC mace. Of course, delivering under crisis is only one aspect of greatness but if you stretch that logic further, if Kohli consistently fails to live up to the expectations in most challenging situations, people will debate the absoluteness of his genius as well.
Even the great Sachin Tendulkar was not spared from criticisms for not making enough runs in the last innings of the Test matches (which could have resulted in more wins) and the high-profile World Cup finals.
The other day former Pakistani captain Ramiz Raja told this writer a very interesting thing. He did concede that Imran Khan’s greatness as captain would not have been the same with the 1992 ODI World Cup win. One of the respected and neutral voices of cricket, Raja added that the trophies do matter because good captains usually win a lot of trophies. A great leader is also about winning the moments, especially the crunch moments. Unfortunately, Kohli and his team collapse in crunch moments.
Kohli’s numbers of win in Test matches are as good as Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting, both of whom are unarguably two of the finest captains of all-time. Besides dominating Test cricket for a sustained period, both leaders also won ODI World Cup, not once but twice. Ultimately, even the greatest captains also need trophy to justify the claim.
Instead of gracefully accepting the defeat in the final, Kohli floated the idea of three-match series to decide the winner. However, it is practically not feasible in an already crowded FTP to seriously embrace this utopian idea. Forget Test cricket, even the finals of multi-team event in T20I and ODIs finals are not decided by the best of the three format. The football World Cup and hockey World Cup also have ‘winner takes all’ final format. Same is the case with Grand Slam in tennis. The fastest runner in the world which is literally a ten-second affair also finishes as a solitary event which is perhaps the greatest sporting spectacle.
Kohli respects Williamson immensely and he must listen to the counter-arguments of the New Zealand skipper. If Kohli had lost the ODI World Cup in 2019 with the bizarre technicality like Williamson which resulted in England being champion, he and India would have exploded.
More importantly, the inherent nature of Test cricket allows both teams a chance of redemption in the same match and that is why there are two innings no matter how badly a game gets affected by rain or other factors. Only if Kohli or his mates would have batted for another sixty minutes, they would have been the deserving joint-winner of the inaugural WTC trophy. Only in Test cricket, you have got the option of a draw result and perhaps it would have been a fair result.
However, New Zealand looked like a more determined and resolute outfit to win and that is why they managed to defy all odds including the rain intervention which seriously put the decisive outcome of the match in doubt.
Kohli’s frustration for faltering once again at the most demanding occasion can be easily understood. His team has dominated the WTC cycle by winning a dozen Test matches and yet they are not the winners. However, they must reconcile to the fact that of late New Zealand is the only team which can claim to get the measure of them.
The Black Caps had never managed three win in a trot against India which now they have. They have not allowed India to go past 250 even once in the last six innings. There is no shame in losing to such a wonderful team which is undoubtedly their greatest ever. And, you really don’t need the best of three format to acknowledge that.
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