ICC WTC Final: 3 Big questions in front of Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri as they get ready to pick playing XI for New Zealand Test

ICC WTC Final: 3 Big questions in front of Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri as they get ready to pick playing XI for New Zealand Test

ICC WTC Final – India vs New Zealand: Less than a week left before the ICC World Test Championship Final (ICC WTC Final) and Team India has a selection headache ahead of the finale against Kane Williamson’s New Zealand. The first big question that captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri will have to answer is which combination to go with — three pacers and two spinners or 4 pacers and 1 spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin.

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However, making a selection purely based on the form will not be easy. All the bowlers have been in prime form ahead of the inaugural ICC WTC Final. But it is the conditions that will determine the final combination of whether to go with three pacers and pick both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja or go with four pacers and one spinner.

Apart from that, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will also need to answer three big questions before the final on June 18 in Southampton.

ICC WTC Final – Four pacers or 2 spinners? The first big question that will need answering is whether to go ahead with four pacers or two spinners. While conditions in Southampton does favour seamers. In the last match that was played in Southampton last month, the pacers bagged all 21 wickets in the match in the County Championship. In the last Test match that was played in August 2020 between England and Pakistan, seamers scalped 15 wickets out of 22.

 

Hence, going with the four-pacers option seems likely. But if Virat Kohli does so, he will lack batting depth in the tail end as Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma are not proven batters. It will also mean, benching Ravindra Jadeja who slammed an unbeaten 86 in the only Test he played in the last tour of England in 2018. But considering New Zealand have five left-handers, Ravichandran Ashwin will be the best choice as the off-spinner has dismissed left-handers 207 times out of his 409 Test wickets.

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ICC WTC Final: Who to pick between Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma if only two pacers: However, things get complicated if Team India decides to go with only three pacers. While Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will be an automatic choice, former India spinner Harbhajan Singh has suggested that Mohammed Siraj will be a better pick than Ishant Sharma.

“If I was the captain, I would go with three pure fast bowlers. In that case, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. In this final, I would like to go with Mohammed Siraj ahead of Ishant Sharma. Ishant is a brilliant bowler but for this game, my choice is Siraj, who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years,” he told PTI.

However, past performance will definitely help Ishant Sharma. In the 2018 tour, Ishant was India’s top wicket-taker with 18 scalps and benching him may not be a good idea as his height will be a factor in such conditions.

ICC WTC Final: Openers – Who to pick Shubman or Mayank? In the batting department, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have an opening conundrum. While Rohit Sharma has cemented his place, the same cannot be said about his partners. India have three openers to choose from — KL Rahul, Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal. But the contest is mostly between Mayank and Shubman. Both of them shot to fame in Australia. But for Shubman Gill, despite a promising start, his recent run of form will be a matter of concern. In the IPL 2021, he looked nervous and that could be a problem especially without any competitive match practice going into the WTC final.

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As for Mayank Agarwal, he too has struggled with the form with his coach RX Murali calling it a mental block that he is working on. The performance in the IPL 2021 was a massive boost and only a few practice sessions will determine who would make it to the Playing XI.

But in either case, lack of match practice would be a matter of concern. Former India selector and batsman Dilip Vengsarkar also pointed that out.

“It’s important to have matches. You have practice sessions, but the important thing is to have matches and spend time in the middle, not just for the batsmen, but for the fast bowlers and spinners as well. By spending time in the middle, they know what length to hit. That has been a problem. Look, when you go to Australia, England, and New Zealand, the conditions are so different. You need practice matches to get acclimatised to the conditions,” Dilip Vengsarkar told Khaleej Times.