With the VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 postponed, the focus shifts onto the ICC World Test Championship final, which will be played between India and New Zealand. The iconic clash takes place at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and will get underway on June 18. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently announced India’s squad for the summit encounter and made some significant decisions. Hardik Pandya, Prithvi Shaw and Kuldeep Yadav were omitted from the 20-man squad, while Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav were included. As Virat Kohli’s men gear up for the crucial game, let’s look at India’s predicted XI which will take the field against the Kiwis. Indian Cricket Team Likely to Leave for England Early for ICC World Test Championship Final Against New Zealand, Says Report.
Openers: India’s selection conundrum starts right from the opening slot. While Rohit Sharma is sure to take one position, Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal are in contention to partner the Hitman. Gill replaced Agarwal as India’s first-choice Test opener during the Test series against Australia earlier this year. However, after some impressive knocks down under, the youngster couldn’t do much in the home Test series against England. Moreover, he was far away from his best in IPL 2021.
On the contrary, Agarwal was phenomenal in the gala T20 tournament and even scored a staggering 99 in his last outing against Delhi Capitals. However, Test cricket is a different ball game, and moreover, England is one of the last places an opener would like to play. Hence, choosing between Agarwal and Gill is a great headache. The latter is most likely to get a nod as he has India’s preferred openers in recent series. Regardless of whoever opens, tackling Kiwi pacers would be a daunting task in Southampton.
Middle-Order: The middle-order is quite settled with Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane following the openers. The trio has been of India’s Test batting line-up over the years and would be critical to their team’s success. Fortunately, all three of them have tasted Test centuries on England soil, and Kiwi bowlers must beware of them.
Although the middle order is settled, it would be intriguing to see who is next in the line-up. Will Hanuma Vihari play as a sixth batsman, or will India name play two spin-bowling all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin? Well, India have indeed played attacking brand of cricket lately but with the match taking place in challenging batting conditions, Hanuma Vihari should take the sixth spot.
Wicket-Keeper: Rishabh Pant has emerged as one of the most scared batsmen in world cricket, and he should pip Wriddhiman Saha to take the keeper’s slot. The southpaw can push opposition on backfoot with his aggressive shots, and his knack of staying at the crease for long makes him even more lethal. However, he also needs to be brilliant behind the stumps to take India to the title.
All-Rounder: Now, this will be the biggest headache! Ravindra Jadeja or Ravichandran Ashwin? Who would take the spin-bowling all-rounder’s slot? Jadeja, who has been in phenomenal form lately, can score runs quickly, and his accurate bowling is not easy to counter. Also, one can’t forget his fielding prowess. With such abilities, Jadeja would walk into most of Test XI. However, the southpaw is competing against Ashwin, arguably the best spinner at the moment. The off-spinner’s overseas performances have improved his recent times, and he also has five Test centuries under his belt. Hence, the 34-year-old should take the key position.
Bowlers: The remaining three slots will be occupied by three pacers and India have plenty of options. Mohammed Siraj has shown immense improvement lately, and Shardul Thakur comes with his batting abilities. However, India should go with the trustable trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. All three of them have toured England before and are aware of the drill. However, piercing defences of Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, and Ross Taylor won’t be easy.
India’s Likely Playing XI For WTC Final: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 08, 2021 04:09 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).