Has the most consistent Indian Test team lost its best shot at glory?

London:¬†Consistency has been the hallmark of the Indian Test team over the past five years but after its second successive failure in a WTC final, has it lost its best shot at attaining greatness? Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R Aswhin and Mohammed Shami have contributed to the team’s success in all conditions but with all of them being on the wrong side of 30s, they may have just ran out of time to create the aura of invincibility that the Australian teams of the 90s and early 2000s had.

Most of them are likely to be around in case India make another WTC final two years later but with their best years already behind them, the task will get tougher for the golden generation of cricketers who played their part in famous wins all around the world, including the back-to-back series triumphs Australia.

Questions will be asked after India’s comprehensive defeat at The Oval to Australia and the selectors will need to take some tough calls going into the new WTC cycle which starts with the West Indies tour next month.

India dropped both Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara from the side following the South Africa tour but brought them back rather than grooming youngsters? Rahane scored the bulk of the runs for India in the WTC final but was going back to him and Pujara the right call?

Former India selector Sarandeep Singh, who saw India script one of their best Test triumphs in Australia in January 2021, doesn’t see wholesale changes being made in the batting department, but the bowling line-up could be drastically different going ahead.

“Kohli and Rohit will be around for the next cycle but I see a lot of major changes in the bowling department. The current generation’s list of achievements is long but you also need to win big titles. With so many lefties in the Australian line-up, not playing R Ashwin was a shocker.

“Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur were not as potent as Siraj and Shami and that cost India the game. Also, the experienced batters could not live up to the expectations. This team may have already hit its peak but there is no reason why it can’t win come 2025,” an optimistic Sarandeep told PTI.

With Jasprit Bumrah injured, Shami has been leading the pace attack but considering the workload he has had to ensure across formats, it will be tough for him to last another WTC cycle.

Mohammed Siraj was the best bowler for India in the final but if he doesn’t get support from others, he will be at a bigger risk of breaking down.

“For some reason, no attention was paid to prepare the next line of pacers. It will be tough for Shami to carry on for another two years, Siraj is the only one who is young but he can’t be overused. You needed to groom Umran Malik, the only bowler who can clock 150kmph, but you did not try him.

“We also need a left-arm pacer and rather than going back to Jaydev Unadkat, Arshdeep Singh could have been tried. Some big calls have to be taken soon,” Sarandeep added.

The A tours, which helped India create a rich bench strength over the past decade, were inexplicably stopped in the last year or so, forcing the selectors to go back to the tried and tested players rather than blooding youngsters.

The India batters’ inability to bat for longer periods in a Test match has also been exposed in this cycle, be it in home conditions or overseas. Being aggressive against a hostile attack can be productive but loose shots from some of the senior Indian batters highlighted that they were not prepared to play the waiting game in testing conditions.

“It is important to show some vision as far as the A team is concerned, so that you can build a bench strength. I don’t want to pinpoint but it is very important to build bench strength.

“We have not been able to do that in Test cricket. NCA has become a rehab centre. We need vision and the will to implement it. We must be preparing now for the next cycle,” said former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar.