Rahul Dravid rues India's first-day no-show with the ball

Virat Kohli stretches before walking out to bat
June 11, 2023

India head coach Rahul Dravid was point-blank in his assessment that the 469 they conceded after electing to bowl on a "green wicket" put India on the back foot. It meant playing catch up for the rest of the WTC final at The Oval.

"It wasn't a 469 wicket," Dravid told Star Sports, after Australia wrapped up a 209-run victory. "On the first day, last session, conceding 157 [for no wicket] was disappointing. We knew the lines and lengths we needed to bowl; the lengths weren't bad, but we went wide with our lines, gave a lot of room to Travis Head, he capitalised and we fell behind."

That said, Dravid also rued India's dismissals late on the fourth day in a chase of 444. Rohit Sharma was out sweeping Nathan Lyon, Cheteshwar Pujara out to an attempted ramp and Shubman Gill caught in the gully to a contentious catch that elicited widespread debate.

"Yesterday I felt on this wicket, we played three-four shots, we could've been a bit careful," Dravid said. "It was tough, [but] there was hope. However far behind you are, you always fight. In the two years, we've had situations where we've been behind but have made comebacks.

"The good thing was we were behind for two days in this Test but didn't give up and fought well. We needed an exceptional performance, a big partnership [on the final day]. We had the players, but they [Australia] had the upper hand, they bowled well, got a couple of wickets and it can happen."

Why did India choose to bowl in the WTC final?

Asked about India's decision to bowl first, Dravid said overhead conditions played a big role in that. As it turned out, barring the first hour, the rest of the Test was played in glorious sunshine with temperatures touching 30 degrees C on the fourth and fifth days.

"In the [first] morning, there was a lot of grass, the overhead conditions were cloudy and, in England, we felt batting gets easier - even on the fourth and fifth day, there wasn't much happening," Dravid said. "Lot of teams win the toss and field. At 70 [76] for 3, we felt it was a good decision, but the complexion of the game changed in the two sessions after that.

"Had we restricted them to 300-odd, it would've been a good score, we would've still been in the game, and it would've been a tight third and fourth innings. It's one of those things in England. Last year at Edgbaston, the fourth innings became easier, and England chased 380 [378] easily. We knew 444 is a lot of runs, but if we kept them to 320, we could've chased it."

Dravid was then asked if he felt the top five needed to do better. While he agreed the "legends" would be the first to be disappointed with their own returns, he cited how the dip in averages over the last two years was also a reflection of tougher pitches.

"The same boys have won twice in Australia, won Tests in England," Dravid said. "Yes, they will agree this wasn't up to their high standards but we're working on it. Some of the wickets have been challenging. This was a good wicket, but some other conditions haven't been easy.

"Every game is important in the WTC. You need points, can't play for draws. So everywhere, even in India, the wickets have been tough. You have to factor this in while looking at averages. It's not just ours, but yes, we need to work on it. If we give bowlers runs to play with, we can win Tests."

Do India need to move away from spin-friendly home tracks?

On the point of "tougher pitches", Dravid was asked by Harbhajan Singh if India needed to re-look at their policy of tailoring tracks to suit their spinners at home, which brought with it the inherent risk of batters being undercooked against quality pace abroad. While Dravid agreed pitches that turned from the first ball weren't ideal, the nature of the WTC and the pressure to win meant they needed to take risks, he said.

"Nobody wants wickets to turn from the first ball and turn square, but certainly when you're playing the WTC and playing for points, as it gets to the back end of it, everyone expects you to qualify, everyone wants you to quality, everyone wants to come to games like this [final]. In situations like that, at times, you have to take a few risks.

"We're not the only team taking risks. You look at the wickets in Australia, look at the wicket in Brisbane [when South Africa toured last year], Australia also used to play on wickets that lasted five days, but now they're also playing on wickets that are lasting three-four days in their own country.

"When you're looking at the WTC, you're looking at qualification. Sometimes the pressure is on you to get points in every single game, and sometimes it can get quite tough. Sometimes, wickets have become result-oriented. While I agree some of the wickets in India have been difficult, it's sometimes a risk we all have to take."

Was there enough time between IPL 2023 and WTC final?

India came into this Test on the back of a staggered week-long preparation. With the IPL only having finished on May 29, several first-choice players only linked up with the squad a week prior to the Test. After a short camp in Arundel, India began training in London from June 3 only. Dravid was again point-blank when asked if this was ideal.

"I am never going to be happy with the prep as a coach, but that's a reality I'm faced with…we are faced with," he said. "Schedules are so cramped and tight. When you've been playing international cricket, if you're here three weeks before the tour and play two side games, you're going to be better prepared.

"We don't have that, got to do what we can, but no excuses, no complaints. I want to congratulate Australia. They played better than us for five days. We don't need to make excuses, we need to look at ourselves, see what we can get better at, what we can improve on, and that's a constant effort."

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