Grand opportunity

Grand opportunity

After losing against Kane Williamson-led New Zealand side in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in 2021, Team India has returned again in the second final of the two-year long tournament. The opponents this time around are the ever-formidable Australians. Apart from England, the two sides — India and Australia — enjoy the reputation of playing Tests with equal flair and passion as they do in limited overs cricket. Every Test match between India and Australia is a spectacle in itself. And if the occasion happens to be a WTC final, one can hardly ask for more. As of now, the WTC final is the biggest game in red-ball cricket. The WTC was introduced “to bring context to bilateral Test cricket”. The aim has been to bring it out of the monotony of bilateral series, and provide it a more comprehensive outlook. The WTC final is a treat for purists who still judge the gameplay of a team or player by the yardstick of Test performance. Indeed, the WTC setup has animated the monotonous looking landscape of Test cricket. Team India has a crucial opportunity to clinch an ICC trophy at the WTC final, which will allow them to start their ODI World Cup campaign minus one big burden. The last time that India won an ICC trophy was in 2013 (Champions Trophy) under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The captaincy period of Virat Kohli, too, was devoid of an ICC trophy. And now Rohit Sharma appears to be buckling under the same pressure. As one of the best performing teams across the world, the sooner Team India eases itself of this pressure, the better it will be. On the contrary, the last ICC tournament final that Australia lost was in 2010 — the only one in this century. The team has won the rest six ICC finals it played after the year 2000. During the same period, India has won three — all under the captaincy of legendary MSD — and lost four. When it comes to competing against Australia in bilateral Test series, India has maintained a clear edge over the past couple of years. The captaincy years of Virat Kohli in particular imbibed the much-needed vigour and aggression to Indian Test cricket. The real challenge for India, however, has been winning the big games — finals and semifinals — against Australia. The ability to perform against all odds in big matches, which was once demonstrated under MSD, has been mostly absent lately. This is something that the Australian teams — both men and women — have done with ease all throughout. It is as much about mental composure and well-directed spirit as it is about being loaded with cricketing talents. There could be no doubt that Team India possesses all the ingredients required to be a champion. All that is needed now is a proper synthesisation of the same. The WTC final, though a big event in itself, can also provide tempo for Team India ahead of the ICC ODI World Cup. For Australia, the WTC Final is a prelude to the much-cherished Ashes series. The teams are fighting the prestigious battle at iconic Oval ground — one of the most sacred spots of cricket. The amply grassed pitch will aid the formidable Aussie pace attack lead by skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. The absence of the dangerous Josh Hazelwood brings some respite to Indian batters. Indian pace attack, too, seems to be in safe hands of Mohd. Siraj, Mohd. Shami and Umesh Yadav. The absence of Jasprit Bumrah is certainly a big negative for the team. In batting, much will depend on the performance of India’s time-tested top-order batsmen. The absence of Rishabh Pant has been compensated for by highly talented and in-form Shubhman Gill. KS Bharat is playing the key role of wicketkeeper batsman. India’s legendary former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar emphasised on the relevance of spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on the spin-friendly ground of Oval. Ashwin, however, is not included in the playing eleven. Though the match is being played at a neutral ground in London, Indian Team can still find ample supporters in the stands, as many Indian-origin inhabitants live in that part of the city.

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