An exciting battle to decide the first official World Champion of Test cricket will unfold on Friday, June 18. Battle lines are drawn between India and New Zealand. One under Virat Kohli are the fiercest fighters in all forms of cricket and the others under Kane Williams are fresh from epochal Test series win over hosts England.
Expert opinions are divided who presumably will wear the champions’ crown, or lift the ICC Test mace to be precise, after five days of battle at the Rose Bowl, Southampton. The Kiwis have a certain advantage after having played a Test series in England. The Indians have hit form during the intra-squad match stimulation.
Australian skipper Tim Paine would put his money on India even as the Kiwis have toppled might England in their own backyard. Giving due credit to New Zealand, Paine has said, “I think New Zealand are a good team, for one, and secondly if we’re being realistic I think it’s a really different team that we saw England out on the field to what we’re probably going to see in the Ashes… keeping it in perspective it certainly wasn’t England’s strongest team.”
Addressing a Press conference in Brisbane, Paine also addressed cricket’s hottest topic the ICC World Test Championship final. “My prediction is, India will win pretty comfortably if they play anywhere near their best,” said the Aussie skipper.
But back home, Indian and world cricket’s most successful batsman Sachin Tendulkar believes otherwise. The batting maestro gives New Zealand an edge for them having played two Tests in England just before the WTC final.
“This is, without any doubt, another way to look at it. New Zealand will have that slight edge because they’ve played the two Tests against England while India haven’t had practice matches except for playing between themselves,” Sachin has told Times of India.
While acknowledging India has right talent to deal with the Kiwis, Tendulkar also questioned the scheduling of the England-NZ series right before the Test championship final.
“I don’t know when New Zealand vs England series was decided. I’d like to believe that it was decided way in advance, way before New Zealand booked their spot in the Final. Maybe it’s a coincidence. This England vs New Zealand series was not going to contribute to the WTC Final. So, maybe the WTC Final first and then this series could have been staged,” he opined and added past experience of playing in England will come handy to the Indians.
“That’s a good thing. Our players – in different capacities – have played in England, be it Test cricket or India ‘A’ team. So, the conditions are not completely foreign to them,” he said.
Tendulkar also has a reasoning to support that why the ICC World Test Championship final should have been a series and not just a one-off game.
“So, there was too much gap in between for that excitement level – in terms of a build-up – to stay intact. From the teams’ point of view, it’s huge, no doubt. But ideally, one would enjoy a shorter span for the World Test Championship to be played in – let’s say around three months during which teams play each other – and then you finish it off with a ‘series final’,” he said.
India were leading the ICC World Test Championship table before the ICC altered the points and qualification system as several series were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This allowed New Zealand to make it the final first when Australia lost an opportunity to make the grade since their series with South Africa was suspended. India deservingly qualified later.
India and New Zealand will play the decider at the Rose Bowl, Southampton, from Friday to Tuesday (June 18 to 22). June 23 has been kept a reserve day to make up for the any loss of playing period. In the event of a draw after the full five days of action, the team will be declared joint winners.