ODI cricket played out its first World Cup final in 1975. (The first two women’s World Cups in 1973 and 1978 were played on a championship table format.) That was followed by the T20 format in 2007. And most of the people who were witness to that will know the enormity of the occasion – the oldest format of the game is set to be the last to get a World Championship final of its own. After a lot of discussions, a lot of confusion and a lot of chop and change, India and New Zealand will be playing for the mace.
WHY IS THIS SO BIG?
No prizes for guessing there. It might have taken place over a two-year cycle but this is the World Cup of Tests we are talking about and it is the big final. Most professional cricketers swear by the fact that test cricket is the most challenging format and the ultimate test of a cricketer. Even then, there were hushed conversations of test cricket losing its appeal with the advent of T20 (and now T10) cricket. In such a scenario, it is indeed a big step by the ICC towards safeguarding the interests of test cricket. What the World Test Championship also does is it gives context to almost all bilateral series played, not just for the two teams involved, but a few others as well. Imagine the kind of interest the Australian fans had in the India-England Test series because their qualification depended on its result! Going forward, this will certainly be one of the key aspects in keeping the interest of test cricket alive.
WHAT’S IN IT?
Everything that a World Cup final has! It is all to play for and fans of both teams will definitely want to see their team become the first-ever World Test Champions. New Zealand will want to have an ICC trophy in their cabinet and Kohli will want to lead India to one for the first time. From the perspective of a lot of individuals also this is a huge moment. Watling is playing his last test while a lot of others will be playing their first World Championship final in any format. Now for someone like VVS Laxman, the only regret he would have had in his career was perhaps never having played a World Cup. People like Pujara, Saha, Vihari, Ishant will at least not have that regret in life.
THE ELEVENS THAT CAN BE
Both teams seem to have similar problems and will have a headache in finalizing one or two spots. The question will be who to leave out more than who to pick.
New Zealand - They will play a team similar to the one that played in the first test against England with the top six certain. However, if they want to fit in Boult, they will have to leave either Jamieson or Wagner out. With Santner not in the squad, de Grandhomme becomes a certainty to provide the batting cushion at 7.
Eleven: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson/Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel
India - They too have the top order sorted and the questions come in the bowling department. Whether to play two spinners? If yes then which 3 pacers should be in the eleven. If no then who should be the spinner playing. I think India should play to its strengths which is in fielding both Ashwin and Jadeja. If conditions are helpful for pacers, three should be good enough. If not, the need of two spinners will be all the more. Going by the form he has been in, I would be inclined to pick Siraj in the eleven ahead of Shami.
Eleven: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
For the Kiwis, Conway is definitely one man India will be wary of. Williamson has not been in great touch and with the kind of grit he has as a player, he will be a big threat indeed. As far as the Indians are concerned, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant are the two players who can win India the game. Also, Kohli has not hit a hundred since 2019, so he is in the same zone as Williamson and thus, an equally big threat.
PS: While we are talking about history about to be made, history is already being created as I type this with the Indian women’s team playing their first test in 7 years. They are on the brink of creating the World Record for most consecutive test wins. Having finished the first day in a reasonably good position, they will certainly divide a bit of attention from the WTC final as the women’s test progresses.
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)
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