The World Test Championship Final is upon us as two heavyweights of cricket India and New Zealand lock horns at the Ageas Bowl Stadium. Both sides have had a terrific journey heading into the finals, and have registered some memorable wins over the course of two years.
Team India’s last taste of a major title came in the ICC Champions Trophy of 2013. After that, the Indian team didn’t have the best of times going ahead, as they faltered in the semi final of the ICC T20 World Cup of 2016, a defeat in the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy Final, followed up by a semi final exit in the ICC Cricket World Cup of 2019. Virat Kohli and his men have another golden opportunity to redeem themselves, as they look to become the first ever team to be crowned the World Test Champions.
Nevertheless, the New Zealand team can give them a run for their money, like they have in recent memory.
Talking about Team India’s road to the WTC Final, they started off their journey against the West Indies in the Caribbean Islands and did manage to comprehensively beat them away from home by 2-0. What followed up was back to back home Test series’ to South Africa and Bangladesh. Team India won five games on the trot, which included a whitewash of both South Africa and Bangladesh. After winning seven Test matches on the bounce, the Indian cricket Team had a hiccup by the start of 2020 with a 2-0 loss to New Zealand away from home.
The Kiwis continued to be burden for Team India even after the 2019 World Cup, and displayed the depth and quality that they had. In spite of the defeat to New Zealand, the Indians bounced back in resilient manner to beat Australia in Australia in the most remarkable manner.
With Virat Kohli missing three Tests, and quite a few other senior players moving to the sidelines due to sustained injuries, not many gave India a chance to come out on top. However, the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and his young troops did the unthinkable and beat the Aussies 2-1 at their own turf. Plenty of cricket fans and experts even regard as one of the finest Test series to ever be played.
Their final Test series before their clash against New Zealand was at home to England. India did lose the first Test, but were quick to back on their feet as they thumped the visitor 3-1, courtesy some quality spin bowling.
As for New Zealand, they too have worked hard to get into the WTC Finals, as they look to brush aside the heart break of the 2019 World Cup by being crowned the World Test Champions. The Kiwis started their WTC campaign was against Sri Lanka away from home. New Zealand lost the first game, but then secured a comprehensive win in the second game to level the series.
They were then beaten to their neighbors Australia 3-0, as their confidence must have taken a big blow. But Kane Williamson and his New Zealand unit displayed their true character against Team India. The Kiwis quite comfortably beat the number one team 2-0 and took plenty of inspiration for their WTC campaign going ahead. New Zealand carried on their momentum as they registered consecutive home series wins over West Indies and Pakistan.
Their most recent triumph was against the hosts England as they won the series 1-0. The Kiwis will be thriving in confidence after getting the win in England against the home team, as they are now all warmed up for the big finals against India.
Interestingly, it’s India who top the charts in the WTC points table with 520 points, while, New Zealand are in at second with 420. But if we take a look at the ICC Test Team Rankings, the roles are reversed, as New Zealand occupy the top spot, with Team filling in at the second spot. With India and New Zealand occupying the first and second spots, Australia and England finished at 3rd and 4th respectively. Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh occupied the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th respectively.
All these factors would only spice things up furthermore. The squad depth and quality of personnel in both camps is what truly makes these two sides deserving of a spot in the WTC Final.
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Chesteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Wriddhiman Saha
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Will Young.
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma
Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (Captain), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel.
The winner of the WTC Finals will earn USD 1.6 million along with the Test Championship mace as announced by ICC. Meanwhile, the runners up will be given $ 800,000.
“The losing team will get $ 800,000 for finishing second in the nine-team competition, which was played over a near two-year cycle, adding context to Test cricket and to crown the first official world champions in the longest format of the game,” the ICC said.
“The prize money for the team finishing third in the ICC World Test Championship Standings Powered by MRF Tyres is $ 450,000. The team fourth on the table will be awarded $ 350,000, the one that finishes fifth gets $ 200,000 while the remaining four teams will get $ 100,000 each
Both India and New Zealand will be squaring off at the Ageas Bowl Stadium, in Southampton. The match is scheduled from June 18-22, and will be broadcasted live on the Star Sports Network, as well as Sony Liv.