WTC Final Preview: Two contrasting captains with different reservations eye maiden ICC trophy

Somya Kapoor

Somya Kapoor

Author| Jun 17, 10:47 AM

Photo Credits: Twitter/BCCI
Photo Credits: Twitter/BCCI

Process. Passion. Zeal. All this has boiled down to one final encounter which begins on June 18 in Southampton between India and New Zealand. The two sides will be in the final bout for the title clash of the inaugural World Test Championship. 

But before we move on, let’s just get to a small recap of things that have gone for both sides in this battle for the ultimate glory. 

India started off the quest in a decent manner with an away win against West Indies followed by some dominance on the home soil against South Africa and Bangladesh.  

All was going pretty well for Virat Kohli’s men before they received a reality check on a platter. India were on a tour to New Zealand when the then-unbeaten side was thumped 0-2 by the Kane Williamson-led team. 

It certainly took a lot of effort for the Indian team to get back on track. In a pandemic-hit World Test Championship, the Indian team toured Australia after the Covid-19 situation was brought under control. The team had a gloomy start to the proceedings. The visitors were bundled out for 36 in the first Test match and eventually lost the match to hand the Aussie side a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. 

Moreover, talismanic captain Virat Kohli had to return back for the birth of his first child. As if losing their best player wasn't enough, the side was later marred by injuries, with key players getting ruled out of the series mid-way. As tempers started to flare in the Ind vs Aus series, the visiting side was racially abused by the crowd. Despite having the option to step out of the field as a sign of protest, the team battled on, in a staunch show of their character.

BUT. Here came the 'process' that captain Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri had been talking about all these years. 

The process that had formed a team that could take a blow and still fight back. The process that instigated passion in the youngsters. The process that led to India’s 2-1 victorious triumph in the series. 

The youngsters along with the experienced lads like Chetehswar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane took up the onus on themselves and anchored India to a win on the Australian soil. 

They levelled the series in the second match, managed to draw the third and breached the fortress Gabba in the final face off to clinch the series and create history. The young guns of India had the tri-colour in their hands and were taking the lap of honour stamping their authority on the biggest stage. 

India then hosted England but once again began in a disappointing manner after they lost the first match. However, they came roaring back and thumped the English team in their next three games to clinch the series 3-1 and register a place in the final of the WTC. 

New Zealand, on the other hand, would find themselves a bit lucky. The Blackcaps were blanked 3-0 against Australia away from home but they too bounced back strongly to win the series fixtures against India, Pakistan and West Indies. 

The Australian side was a bit unlucky in this regard. They suffered a defeat at the hands of India at home while the cancellation of their tour to South Africa cost them several points. 

It was probably a brain fade moment for Australia or an extra effort to create a tactical move, but it eventually led them to bow out of the tournament. They could have still made a cut if the series between India and England would have ended in a draw. 

England had an uphill task when they came to India. They needed to beat the hosts 3-0, 4-0 or 3-1 to go through. 

Well, all said and done, it is India and New Zealand who are in the final.

Match Details 

Date – 18 June – 22 June 2021

Time: 03:00 PM IST

Venue: The Rose Bowl, Southampton

Weather Report

The ICC have decided to keep an extra day as the reserve day but the weather forecast on the first, third and fifth day of the match isn’t pleasing for cricket fans as rain is expected. 

The second day is expected to be cloudy with some possibility of rain while the fourth day seems to be the day when the match can go ahead without an interruption. Though, the weather on this day is also expected to be cloudy. 

Pitch Report

In the first place, the pitch in Southampton looks to be a green top and might favour the fast bowlers.  

Historically a pitch that supports spin bowling at the later phase of the Test match, the weather this time might just help pace and bounce. The first three days of the match can see the fast bowlers’ dominance while the last two days can have something on offer for the spinners. With the cloud cover to stay for the majority of the game, seamers can have a gala time out there in the middle. 

Toss

As Test cricket has unravelled through the competition, batting first has turned out to be a tricky choice. It is still a bold move to set the tone in the final, but batting second can be the better option here given the conditions look suited for bowling. With the cloud cover, a probable green top and all this added up with the pacer’s abilities can help the side bowling first to get rid of the pressure at an early stage of the game. 

Advantages

India: There was an era when the Indian teams used to bank upon their batting more than the bowling attack, especially the pacers. This had come as a drastic change in this Indian side, a credit that has to go to Virat Kohli, who is known to play a fiery brand of cricket. The side comprises so many quality fast bowlers that the fans and pundits were disappointed when a couple of them were left out of the final 15 for the match. 

Well, the conditions in Southampton would surely have something for the equipped Indian fast bowling unit. While Bumrah is the x-factor in any match he bowls, the experience of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami can do wonders in these kinds of conditions. 

Especially Ishant Sharma can be the difference-maker here, given his uncanny ability to bowl to the left handers. The right-arm bowler continuously bowls across and then all of sudden gets one back into the batsman to either clean him up or get him trapped in front of the wickets. The instance of the same was witnessed during his Indian Premier League match against RCB when he dismissed Devdutt Padikkal in the same manner. 





Virat Kohli’s ‘100’ drought

The Indian skipper Virat Kohli has set his bar so high that if he is not scoring a ton, things seem a bit abnormal, like he is out of form. We have seen this during the England series that Kohli has looked pretty set during his time in the crease, but just has been unable to find a century.

But what a great opportunity has come knocking on his door to nullify this drought. 

Kohli has toured England twice. The first one was a forgettable one while the second led his name in the record books. 

But it's not just about his runs tally that makes him a world-class player but it is those little adjustments in his batting that he makes whenever he faces some issues. This was the only difference in the two England tours of his. 

Going back in time, Kohli would be remembering how his side was rattled by the New Zealand bowlers in the World Cup 2019 semi-final in England. But the flamboyant right-handed batsman is someone who would take it on. 

The 2019 memories will still be fresh in his mind and he is now expected to rub them off with a performance in this WTC final that goes in the history book. 

New Zealand: The weather conditions in Southampton perfectly favour the New Zealand bowlers especially someone like Trent Boult. Boult is one of those talented bowlers who can generate pace and can swing the ball at the same time and with five right-handed batsmen in the Indian batting ranks in top-order, he can be ruthless on any given day. 

Boult is likely to get a fair amount of swing especially because of the cloudy weather and the usage of Dukes ball and would trouble the Indian batsmen. 

The rise of Devon Conway

Those who follow the game would know how interesting Devon Conway’s journey has been and one anecdote from this ride is that how much he loves to bat. And this was very evident when Conway first got an opportunity to go out in the middle at the Lord’s and bat. 

He opened the innings for New Zealand against England and struck a double-century on debut. More than his runs, it was Conway’s precision against the stock deliveries of the bowlers. 

You can’t bowl to him at full length, he will drive you. You can’t bowl him short, he would pull you. You can’t bowl full on the legs, he would flick you for a maximum while notching up a milestone. For now, Conway is a perfect batsman who probably has answers to every. He could end up providing the perfect protection for his captain Kane Williamson who has been suffering from a lingering issue in his left elbow, something that has caused him major discomfort during his stay at the crease.

Disadvantages

India: While the Indian team looks pretty solid and stable, the opening might be an issue for them. As mentioned above, Boult can create some problems for both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. 

While Rohit could face trouble against the in-swinging deliveries from the left-hander, Gill’s lack of experience at the highest level is a concern. Though, the youngster showed his ability in Australia after he scored a crucial 90 odd but the conditions there were different. 

New Zealand: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson wasn’t in good touch in the only match that he played against England in the two-match series. He scored 13 & 1 in the two innings respectively. 

Moreover, Williamson’s record in England isn’t that great. In 10 innings he has 261 runs to his name and averages just above 26, surely the numbers that don’t define a player of his calibre. 

Team News

India: India announced the 15-man squad recently for the WTC final but had to leave out opener Mayank Agarwal and bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur. Apart from this, the skipper Virat also needs to take a vital decision on whether he would go ahead with two spinners and three pacers or would pick one spinner or four quick bowlers in the final XI. 

Well, looking at the first glance of the track, it seems that the track might be greener which would help the fast bowlers but on the contrary, both Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin provide the side with batting depth and have earned their place in the squad with some tremendous form over the past year.

New Zealand: New Zealand too announced the 15-man squad for the title clash and picked Ajaz Patel as the specialist spinner while Mitchell Santner along with Doug Bracewell, Rachin Ravindra, and Jacob Duffy missed the bus. "Playing in a World Cup Final is a really special occasion and I know the guys are looking forward to getting into their work here in Southampton," said Stead. 

Wicket-keeper batsman BJ Watling will be playing his last Test when he takes the field against India and as one of the very few lower order batsmen who does not have any problems in the corridor of uncertainty, he could turn out to be a handful for the Indian bowlers.

New Zealand would be looking to make the most of this final. Memories would be fresh of their loss in the 2015 and 2019 ODI World Cup, but in terms of conditions, this match could be tailor-made for them to finally clinch a trophy. They haven’t won an ICC trophy for the past 21 years now. They last won the Knockout Trophy after beating India in the final in 2000. 

Probable XI

India: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma

New Zealand: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner

Fantasy XI

Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Kane Williamson, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult (VC), Jasprit Bumrah

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