India, New Zealand ready for WTC final
Virat Kohli carries expectations of a billion as cricket romantics place their hopes on Kane Williamson when India and New Zealand engage in a battle to create a lasting legacy in pristine whites in the first final of the World Test Championship which kicks off in Southampton from Friday. For connoisseurs of the glorious game, Test Cricket is the ultimate format and despite its aura, the 144 year old story needed a facelift as well as a context that the Test World Championship provided despite various bottlenecks, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Kohli, India’s most successful test captain, a cabinet without a trophy does not do justice to the champion he was for a decade.
Let’s not forget that he was a good leader in his own right, although Mahendra Singh Dhoni will forever be a sentimental favorite.
Kohli needs a global triumph. Every captain needs it, but maybe the Indian captain wants more.
This is how history will remember him, just as it remembers Dhoni with great respect and fondness for those heroic world title victories.
Williamson stands in his way with a bunch of good cricketers and the friendliest set of players one can meet in international cricket.
These are the rivals of India, but when Williamson hits those cover discs Devon Conway teases a Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja, Trent Boult gets a banana inswinger aiming at the shoelaces of Rohit Sharma, mad fans of a mad nation cricketer probably couldn’t hate them.
They are “Gentlemen Cricketers” who have gradually grown on the fans with their cricket and their conduct. It’s hard not to like them, especially after their heart-wrenching World Cup loss in the Lord’s two return summers.
If Williamson is with the ICC test mace on the balcony of the Hampshire Bowl, one might just smile and think that maybe “the good guys don’t always end up last”.
But after two years and a half-dozen of playoffs later, a seasoned Indian team will give it their all in one game, and the winning team will also walk away with a windfall of $ 1.6 million.
There are a number of cricketers out there who would have virtually no chance of winning another world trophy and for them this is their ‘World Cup’ they want to get their hands on.
Cheteshwar Pujara would be ready to take more bruises on his body if Neil Wagner started bowling. Ajinkya Rahane has grown in stature after a series of years and he’s going to tap that extra ounce of energy to make it count.
Ravichandran Ashwin is unlikely to replay a White Ball World Cup and he wouldn’t mind at all if he could fool Williamson, Ross Taylor or the stubborn Henry Nicholls with a carrom ball or a slider.
Ishant Sharma is 14 years old since that epic WACA spell for Ricky Ponting and India’s oldest player deserves to win a world championship as much as anyone else.
Man to man, there is very little choice between the two teams although playing New Zealand in conditions that make it easier to sew and swing is not the easiest task.
England found out recently by losing a series of tests and India had a scorching experience, but in New Zealand where they lost two tests in three days.
But a final has its own set of pressures and no one would feel it more than Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, who would have the toughest job in test cricket right now.
They would face the most underrated but perhaps the best new pair of balls in the business at Boult and Southee, which would spin the new ball and make the old ball talk.
Rohit had great success in India, but the real battle would start with the WTC final followed by the test series in England where his technique and temperament will be put to the test.
Kyle Jamieson hasn’t been played so far, but Williamson knows what kind of a nightmare he was with his stiff rear bounce generated by his 6-foot-9 frame.
If that’s not enough, Wagner will pound him with rib cage stuff that attracts hitters to go get the hook and shoot or take it to the body.
In fact, Wagner vs. Rishabh Pant could be an intriguing battle, knowing his love for the dropped hook shot.
Pant’s self-control and Wagner’s relentless probe will make a big contest.
Likewise, new New Zealand star Conway is reportedly facing a very different type of challenge that Jasprit Bumrah will pose with awkward angles and the late swing that will be generated by Mohammed Shami.
In fact, Conway also prepared for Ashwin and Jadeja by sprinkling kitty litter on the practice grounds to create a rough that helps spin and bounce the ball. This could be one for the strong, unless the leaders on both sides come up with an anti-climax.
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