The inaugural cycle of the ICC World Test Championship reached its end on Wednesday with New Zealand becoming the first-ever champions of the longest format of the game. While it was absolute heartbreak for the millions of Indians closely following the game, Blackcaps supporters finally had broad smiles on their faces after the disappointment of the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Although it was Kane Williamson who got to lift the ICC Test mace, there were some brilliant performances from the Indian side too. The match went neck-to-neck till the final reserve day morning where all three results looked possible.
However, New Zealand won the crunch moments of the game throughout be it their tail managing to take a 32-run lead or their bowlers breaking the Virat Kohli-Cheteshwar Pujara stand first up on the final day morning to take firm strides towards the win.
Here is an attempt to put together the best-combined playing XI based on the eventual performance in the summit clash.
Openers: Rohit Sharma, Devon Conway
Rohit Sharma and Devon Conway will be the openers of this combined XI. While Conway scored a superb half-century in the New Zealand first innings, Rohit Sharma faced close to 25 overs for his 60 odd-runs in the match. While Conway top-scored in the first innings, Rohit was the second-leading run-scorer in the second innings of India, when the team was bowled out for 170. The duo would have the added plus of being a right-hand, left-hand pair.
Middle-Order: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli
Kane Williamson, who was the top-scorer in the match and ended up with 102 runs, simply has to be in the combined XI. Other than that, he pips Kohli to be the captain of this combined XI as he outthought the opposition on many occasions during the final. Kohli was superb too but not as astute as Williamson.
Ross Taylor also made sure that he weathers the storm and takes New Zealand to a win after he was tempted into playing a false stroke in the first innings. His unbeaten 47, after two quick wickets, in the second innings has allowed him to find a place in this side.
Although Ajinkya Rahane scored more runs than Virat Kohli in the match, it was probably Kohli’s wicket that gave New Zealand the necessary belief that they could win the match. Kohli puts a huge price tag on his wicket and despite it not being his best performance, he manages to feature in the combined XI.
Wicketkeeper: Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant is the X-factor in the Indian team. His brand of cricket is expressive as he takes calculated risks against top-quality bowlers even if it’s the red ball. He top-scored in the second innings for India and has only become better as a wicketkeeper. Pant beats BJ Watling for the job in the combined XI.
Spinner/ All-rounder: R Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin is the best bet for this role. While the Kiwis didn’t have a spinner in the side, Ashwin did more than what Colin de Grandhomme could manage with the bat before picking four wickets in the match. In fact, in the second innings, he remained India’s only wicket-taker as none of the pacers could taste success. Ashwin fully deserves this place in the combined side.
Pacers: Kyle Jamieson, Mohammed Shami, Tim Southee, Trent Boult
It was a game dominated by the pacers. Kyle Jamieson is the first pacer to make his way into the combined XI for a Player of the Match worthy performance. He bagged 7 wickets in the match, while also making a handy 21 with the bat.
Similarly, Tim Southee managed just one wicket in the first innings but his 30 with the bat and his performance in the innings, where he troubled the Indian batters with his “three-quarter seam”, has helped him secure a spot in the combined XI.
Trent Boult played a good supporting role and finished with 5 wickets in the match. For the last spot, Mohammed Shami just beat Neil Wagner purely on conditions more suited to Shami’s style of bowling who was the most successful pacer from Team India.