A climax at the summit: on the World Test Championship in London today

India will have to hold its nerve in the World Test Championship final to come out on top

June 07, 2023 12:10 am | Updated 01:30 pm IST

Away from the adrenaline-sprinkled nights of the recent Indian Premier League, it is time for Rohit Sharma’s men to congregate together in their Test whites. The Twenty20 bash may have its share of thrills but for the connoisseur, Test cricket spread over five days is the ultimate yardstick to judge both the singular — the player — and the collective — the team. And the prize cannot be bigger than the World Test Championship (WTC) title on offer as India take on Australia in the final commencing at London’s Oval on Wednesday. In a part of London where a large number of Asians, Africans and the West Indians reside, India will not be short of support. It may be an away game but Rohit’s men will feel at home looking at the stands that will have a large Indian presence. India prospered in its recent exchanges against Australia, be it at home or Down Under, in what is proving to be an exhilarating rivalry, but summit clashes are loaded with extra pressure and both units will step onto the turf as equals. It is a sobering reality that India last won an ICC silverware during the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in England and this is a historical vacuum that Rohit and company will feel a need to address.

In the previous WTC cycle which culminated in the 2021 final at Southampton, India lost to Kane Williamson’s New Zealand. For the senior group of skipper Rohit, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the Oval contest offers another shot at ICC glory. India will miss its injured duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant, but in Shubman Gill, has a batter seemingly destined for greatness. And the old cliché of Indian batting against Aussie speedsters will be again in vogue. India too has a potent seam attack and it would be interesting to see if Rohit presses ahead with both the spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja, or opts for just one. The Oval surface, like Sydney’s SCG, can have a subcontinental flavour, but under whimsical English skies and with a hint of grass on the pitch, the tussle could throw up many riveting angles. Rival captain Pat Cummins helms a strong pace attack, with Mitchell Starc offering the left-arm dimension. He also has Steve Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne as his batting colleagues. With the Ashes series against England looming ahead, Cummins would hope that the WTC final would offer a fillip, while India, ever consistent, equally wants to prove that it can hold its nerve in the climax.

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