Team India faces a new WTC challenge post WI Test win
Australia solidified their lead in the WTC cycle, securing a 10-wicket victory over the West Indies in the initial Test.
Concluding their final T20I assignment ahead of the World Cup in June, Team India is on a brief hiatus. Upon regrouping early next week, attention will shift back to the traditional format, with India poised to face England in a five-match Test series commencing on January 25. This marks India’s third series in the ongoing World Test Championship cycle and their first on home soil, where they have maintained an unbeaten record since 2012. As India seeks to continue this streak against England, the team that last defeated them at home, Australia, the defending WTC champions, have introduced a new element to the current Test Championship standings.
After dominating with a 3-0 victory against Pakistan this month, Australia showcased another clinical performance, defeating a weakened West Indies at the Adelaide Oval. They concluded the first match of the two-Test series in just three days.
Josh Hazlewood secured his 11th five-wicket haul, concluding with figures of 5 for 35, as Australia dismissed the Windies for a mere 120 runs in the 13th over on the third morning. Facing a target of only 26 runs, Steve Smith (11) and Usman Khawaja (9) nearly completed the task before Khawaja left the field retired hurt following a bouncer from the impressive Shamar Joseph. A couple of deliveries later, Marnus Labuschagne scored the decisive run, securing Australia an insurmountable 1-0 lead in the series.
Securing a 10-wicket triumph, their sixth in the 2023/25 WTC cycle, Australia solidified their position atop the points table with 66 points from nine matches, equating to a PCT (Percentage of points contested) of 66.11. The upcoming second match against West Indies at the Gabba on January 25 presents an opportunity for Australia to extend their dominance. Having lost only one match at the Gabba since 1988, if Pat Cummins and his team sustain their winning streak at this stronghold, Australia could potentially accumulate a total of 78 points, resulting in a PCT of 65.
Meanwhile, India holds the second position on the points table with only two victories in four matches— one against West Indies in August last year and the other at Centurion against South Africa earlier this month. To surpass Australia, Rohit Sharma and his team must secure a clean sweep of 5-0 against England. A comprehensive whitewash could earn the hosts 60 points, elevating their total to 86 with a PCT (Percentage of points contested) of 79.6.
India must also keep an eye on South Africa and New Zealand, positioned third and fourth on the points table, each having accumulated 12 points from two matches thus far. The two teams are scheduled to face each other in a two-match series in the coming month.
Should England replicate their 2012 achievement and if either South Africa or New Zealand achieves a clean sweep, India, the two-time finalist, might find themselves in jeopardy for not securing a top-two finish in this WTC cycle. While there is still a considerable distance to cover, Rohit and Rahul Dravid may want to be prepared for potential challenges ahead.