India vs Australia Series Meanders to Close on Dull Day as Focus Now Shifts to WTC Final With IPL in Between

Moments before play began in the post-Lunch session, the Indian players were congratulating each other. The day’s play was far from over but India were assured of a World Test Championship final berth after New Zealand’s thrilling win over Sri Lanka.

The result meant India had pencilled in a Test match on 7 June against Australia at The Oval. It was a matter of formalities and more time under the sun in Ahmedabad for Team India now as the fourth Test was heading towards a taxing draw and all eyes were on the clock.

3:30 was the official mutual call-off time and Rohit Sharma decided to spice things up a bit too, as he often says during press conferences, “make it interesting for you guys.” He certainly had everyone’s attention when Shubman Gill was introduced into the attack to bowl his first over in Test cricket.

Part-time, gentle-offies were met with utmost respect as both Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne were enjoying their open net at the world’s largest cricket stadium. Rohit’s next move had even R Ashwin worried after the day’s play. The move to bring on Cheteshwar Pujara for what was his second over in Test cricket.

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No bearing of these fun moves on the match but at least there was finally something to talk about other than the thriller in Christchurch which ended a couple of hours ago.

Finally, the moment arrived at 3:20 PM IST and Pujara was denied a second over as the two captains shook hands to bring curtains down on what was a riveting series.

From Nagpur to Ahmedabad, the two teams put on a real show and apart from the boring final day, it was more close-fought than what the 2-1 scoreline in India’s favour suggests.

There was a lot at stake for India in particular. The four-Test rubber was the first real test of Rohit’s Test captaincy credentials and a chance to seal the WTC final spot. Rohit ticked a lot of right boxes with his captaincy and more importantly, led India to their second WTC final on the bounce.

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Eye on the WTC final

Between now and The Oval, most members of India’s squad which featured in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be on the road during the Indian Premier League (IPL). It’s a big period for Indian cricket in every sense.

The first hit at an ICC trophy, the sought-after ICC trophy, will be the World Test Championship Final. No matter how much we continue to celebrate the IPL, it will be a unique season as the Indian cricket fraternity will be keeping a close tab on the core group of players who are likely to feature in the WTC final and then the Asia Cup, ODI World Cup tournaments which follow.

“Look, I think it’s quite critical for us, we’re going to keep in constant touch with all players who are going to play that final and monitor their workload and see what’s happening with them,” Rohit Sharma told reporters at the end of the series.

From Rohit’s words, one got the sense that preparations and plans are already underway for the title clash as the Indian captain talked about sending Duke balls to all the fast bowlers in the mix.

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“We are sending some Duke balls to all fast bowlers and if they get some time to bowl with that but again it all depend on individuals, guys who will be part of the final are not the guys who have not played in the UK and maybe one or two guys here and there and rest all of us have played in that part of the world. I don’t think it will be a huge problem. But yeah, look I believe in preparation and preparations will be key for us come the Final,” said Rohit.

Not much time between IPL final and WTC final

The window between the IPL final and WTC final is just a week and it will allow limited time for players to switch from T20 to Test mode. Even Rahul Dravid, during an interview with the host broadcaster, agreed that the window is less and it will be a challenge before the WTC final.

Rohit is already exploring the possibility of sending players, who will not feature in the IPL knockouts and will be part of the Test setup, to England.

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“Around 21st May, there will be six teams who will be possibly out of IPL playoff contention and whichever players are available, we will try and find time to get them to UK early as possible and get some time and we will monitor as much as possible,” said Rohit.

Rohit Sharma has had the WTC Final in his mind from the time the team touched base in Indore. The result of the third Test did put his potential plans for Ahmedabad off but he now has enough time, but no opportunity, to plan and experiment further.

Still early days as Test captain but Rohit wasn’t challenged much in the 2-1 series win over Australia. He, however, will have to take fresh guard when the dust settles on the IPL frenzy and the focus shifts back to the whites.

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