The Indian team’s journey to the World Test Championship final wasn’t short of ups and downs but they’ve ultimately reached there. And deservingly so, having dominated South Africa, England at home and clinched an away series for the ages against Australia.
But the scars of multiple ICC knock-out defeats in recent years run so deep that there is a sense of pessimism among fans regarding the Indian team’s chances. Especially the daunting task of facing a quality New Zealand pace attack in English conditions has kept the optimism in check.
Nevertheless, with unprecedented talent and depth, this Indian team will always be in the contest. And given their strong temperament and ability to fight odds, who knows what might happen if things get close? This Virat Kohli led Indian team will believe they can conquer this challenge too and lift the inaugural World Test Championship title.
The key will be to have all of their important cogs available and then pick the best possible XI which can beat the Kiwis. With that in mind, below could be the best probable Indian XI for the World Test Championship final.
1. Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma has emerged as one of India’s better opening batsmen in recent history through this World Test Championship cycle. The classy right-hand batsman started to bat at the top of the order against South Africa in October 2019 and has since proven extremely crucial to this Indian team’s victories.
Rohit played a nearly unnoticed part in India’s series win in Australia and then outbatted his teammates and the opposition batsmen on difficult surfaces at home against England. He’ll be vital to the Indian team in the marquee final.
2. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill, the prodigiously talented young batsman, was India’s highest run-getter in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. In his first Test series itself, Gill proved why there has been so much talk about him through his journey.
And though he hit a rough patch at home against England, his undoubted class and ability should be reason enough for the Indian team to continue backing Gill.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
One of the most important cogs in this Indian team’s wheel has been Cheteshwar Pujara. The ever-determined Pujara hasn’t been scoring truckloads of runs recently but the world knows the value he still brings.
Pujara was pivotal to India repeat Test series win in Australia and will be playing a vital role at No.3 in the World Test Championship final.
4. Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli is not just the captain of this Indian team but a huge source of inspiration for his teammates, a force they can all rally behind.
Kohli, inarguably among the world’s best batsmen, hasn’t been in the best of form recently but he’ll be desperate to rectify that when he walks out to bat at No.4 against New Zealand.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane’s batting has been a topic of debates but even during this phase of inconsistency, the Indian team have stood firmly behind their vice-captain.
Rahane has a sense of occasion as evident with instrumental performances throughout his career. A big knock in the final of the World Test Championship will not only reinforce his value to this team but also settle the debates around his spot.
6. Rishabh Pant
With outstanding, series-defining knocks in Sydney, Brisbane and Ahmedabad, Rishabh Pant has sealed his spot in this Indian team. Along the way, the explosive left-hand batsman has also proven a capable enough No.6 irrespective of the conditions.
Pant’s brilliant form with the bat has also coincided with commendable improvement in the quality of his glovework. Pant being a fantastic overall package, helps balance this Indian team perfectly as they can field an extra bowler without worrying much about the batting depth.
7. Ravindra Jadeja
An injury to his thumb opened the doors for Axar Patel against England but there is little doubt Ravindra Jadeja still walks into this Indian side at No.7.
Jadeja is one of the premier all-rounders in modern-day Test cricket and has taken both his bowling and batting to another level in the last few years.
He’ll be raring to perform against New Zealand after an extended break from the international game.
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin is making the ball talk these days. After playing an influential role in India’s historic Test series win in Australia, the premier off-spinner dominated the England batsmen in home conditions and went past the 400-wicket mark.
In the pink of health with his bowling, Ashwin will be hoping to continue in the same vein in one of the biggest Test matches of his career so far.
9. Ishant Sharma
After years and years of witnessing the ‘unlucky’ Ishant Sharma unfold before us, we are finally into the days of ‘master’ Ishant Sharma. The most experienced Indian quick has taken his bowling to another level in the last few years, reducing his scoring balls and increasing the potency of the wicket-taking ones.
Ishant became only the third Indian pacer to take 300 Test wickets against England and was brilliant the last time he bowled in the UK. Ishant’s last Test against New Zealand saw him pick up a five-fer in Wellington and he’ll be hoping to keep a wood over the Kiwi batsmen.
10. Jasprit Bumrah
Arguably the world’s best paceman now, Jasprit Bumrah, has been outstanding for India since the start of his Test career. Bumrah’s unorthodox action and potent skillset have seen him excel in South Africa, England, Australia, West Indies.
The pacer has had a tendency to produce his best on big occasions, including two consecutive trips down under, and will be determined to succeed when he turns up against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final.
11. Mohammed Shami
The choice of the third pacer will certainly pose a headache for the Indian team. Mohammed Siraj has made a tremendous start to his Test career, while there will always be a temptation to keep an eye on the fitness of swing king Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
However, it is likely that the Indian team will keep their trust on the experienced Mohammed Shami, who has been out of the game recently because of an injury but is expected to be fit in June to play the World Test Championship final.
There is a line of thought that says Shami is a bowler more suited to the conditions in Asian subcontinent and not so much overseas. But Shami has always found a place in the first-choice Indian XI till date and that is likely to continue even against New Zealand.
Probable Indian XI for the World Test Championship final:- Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami.