Confined to their apartments and homes during the lockdown and the ensuing phases of social distancing last year, the Indian team went from being No. 1 in the World Test Championship points table to No. 3 – thanks to an arbitrary change in the rules.
Unlocked and allowed to play cricket again, they won five out of eight Test matches – against Australia and England, no less – to go back to being No. 1 again and qualify for the final.
Hard quarantine for Team India ahead of World Test Championship final
In that lies the story of Team India’s journey these last 12-odd months, ever since Covid disrupted cricket like everything else everywhere around the world. “We’ve had to dig deep and go down every hole needed to find water. And we’ve earned our stripes to be at the final,” Team India coach Ravi Shastri said on Sunday, addressing the media and talking about the journey his team undertook these last few months.
“It’s the month of October (2020). I’m sitting at home because of Covid. India have more points than any other team in the world (WTC table) – 360 at that time.
“Suddenly, a week later without playing any cricket, there’s some rule that comes about that they’re going to go by some percentage system – where you go from Number 1 to Number 3 within a week. I want to understand the logic behind this. If you ask me about the problems in this first-ever WTC cycle, I’ll say: ‘please don’t shift the goalpost'”, Shastri said.
The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricket (technical) committee, of which former India captain Anil Kumble is the chairman, took the call to bring in the rule-change. Kumble’s teammate and one of the world’s leading batsmen in the last decade – Rahul Dravid – who is on that committee as representative of players, voted in favour of it. Another teammate of Kumble and Dravid – former captain and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly – also voted in favour of it in the ICC Board meeting last year.
Countries, during this phase, did not want to travel to other countries that were in the red zone. “Fine. That’s understandable”. But what was the way forward for India?
“I have two tours left (looking at this last year), sitting on top of the table leading comfortably by around 60-70 points as opposed to any other team. Reason I’m saying this is, India is sitting on top of the table at 360. But now comes this percentage system that dictates – you’ve to beat Australia in Australia. If you don’t, then even if you come back home and beat England 4-0, you get close to 500 points and you still don’t qualify,” Shastri added.
“How many teams in the last whatever number of years have gone to Australia and said with some amount of guarantee they’ll beat Australia in their backyard,” he thundered.
Shastri explained the tough conditions in which India survived the Australia tour and the ensuing stretches of quarantine and isolation time and again, which made the journey all the more difficult.
“With the restrictions, with quarantine rules changing, goalposts kept shifting every time. One day you were allowed to do something, next day you were not because of one (Covid) case here, one case there. Things that you were promised (during Oz tour) did not happen. When you look at all that, the boys were simply magnificent. I cannot say how proud I am of this Indian team,” he added emphatically.
🗣️ “One quality that stands out is the fearlessness.”#TeamIndia Head Coach @RaviShastriOfc on how the youngsters… https://t.co/znDjvMAT49
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“You go from No. 1 to No. 3 sitting in your bedroom, not playing cricket. Then you go back from Number 3 to being number 1 in every department – top of the table, ICC ranking, percentage ranking. Tomorrow there might be some other new benchmark. I think we’ll be number one there also,” the coach added.
💬 “As a coach, I am extremely proud of what the boys have done.”@RaviShastriOfc on his journey & learning as… https://t.co/FtW9S67LIS
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1615123536000