Indian skipper Rohit Sharma has praised the character shown by individuals in India's journey to the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final, but feels that the job is not done yet and they have to get the best result in the summit clash against Australia.
India will take Australia on at The Oval in the final of the 2021-2023 cycle of the World Test Championship at The Oval, London from 7 to 11 June.
"After the World Test Championship (2021 Final) in Southampton, we quickly had to regroup and get ready for the next cycle. I thought in that cycle we played some really, really tough cricket. We were challenged a lot of times and I thought to come out of that was obviously going to take a lot of character from not just a few individuals, but everyone," Rohit said in a video released by BCCI.
India had lost the WTC final in 2021 to New Zealand, but went on to play England in a tough away fixture two months later, winning two of the four Tests before the series was postponed to later.
The early head start proved to be crucial as India cruised to the final on the back of strong performances home and away in the two-year cycle.
"Look, it's a cycle of two years and we play a lot of Test matches during that period. Lot of players have played in that cycle. Different individuals have stepped up, putting the performances that we were looking for from the individual," Rohit said.
Important to Recognise Everyone Who Contributed: Cheteshwar Pujara
Two of India's most prolific batters in the cycle, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, won't be playing in the final with the latter down with injury and the wicketkeeper-batter still recovering from a car accident earlier in the year.
Pant and Iyer were the only two Indian batters other than the skipper himself to average over 40 in the cycle when making more than 500 runs.
Jasprit Bumrah, who took 45 wickets across 10 Tests in the cycle and led India's bowling charts in the Test series in England, where the final will be played, is also out of action from the marquee Test match that will decide the title winners.
Senior batter Cheteshwar Pujara highlighted that it was pertinent that India recognised the contributions of these absentees in their journey to the final.
"There have been many players who have contributed to the team. Some of them are not part of this squad currently, but it's important that we recognise all the players that have contributed in this cycle," Pujara said.
"It's been a great team effort. The team management, captain, everyone has been looking forward to this moment where we qualify for the WTC finals and the guys are really excited to play at The Oval. We've got some good memories playing against England in the UK. Overall, if I look at the last couple of years, it's been a very good journey for the Indian Test team," he added.
India's journey in the second cycle of the WTC has been nothing short of phenomenal. They won 10 of the 18 Tests in the cycle, recording series victories in four of the six series they played.
Rohit, however, realises that the challenge is far from over with a final against Australia at The Oval to bring home the title.
"To be standing here knowing that we've qualified for the finals feels really, really great. The boys are really happy about it because all that effort that we put in for the last two years finally has come to the fore. Obviously, the job is not done. We have to go out there and get the best result for us in the final," concluded India captain.
Qualifying for Two WTC Finals No Mean Feat: Ravichandran Ashwin
Since the beginning of the World Test Championship, India have been one of the most successful Test sides, which is also reflected in the ICC Men's Test Team Rankings, where India are the No.1 side. They have won 22 of the 36 Test matches in the World Test Championship across both cycles and made it to the finals twice.
According to leading spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, the turnaround for the Indian Test team began in 2014 after MS Dhoni's retirement.
"The turnaround definitely started in 2014. MS Dhoni had just retired and we had all played for a few Tests, probably 2013 Tests, pretty early on and we had to start a journey of our own," Ashwin said.
"Never easy without the seniors, but I can comfortably say that all the efforts we have put in have come really to fruition over the last two cycles of WTC. We are qualifying for the second time on the trot [to the WTC finals]. It is no mean feat. We would have loved to win the series in India 3-1 or 3-0 or whatever it is but Australia played some good cricket. We weren't able to do that. However, for the consistent cricket we have played, we've been rewarded with this final," he added.