India's strongest playing XI for World Test Championship final against New Zealand

Although the squad selected by the selectors is on expected lines, the final XI could well depend on the conditions on offer and the combination captain Kohli decides to go ahead with.

Saurabh GangulyAuthor

Updated - 10 May 2021 08:05 PM

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With the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) suspended owing to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in India, all eyes have turned towards the ICC World Test Championship final, where the Virat Kohli-led side will take on New Zealand to battle it out for ultimate glory. Despite the pandemic impacting the inaugural cycle of the Test championship, one has got to believe that two of the best Test sides have made it to the final.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has already named a jumbo squad for the long tour of the United Kingdom which includes the five-match Test series against England post the final. Although the squad selected by the selectors is on expected lines, the final XI could well depend on the conditions on offer and the combination captain Kohli decides to go ahead with.

Here is an attempt to list out the strongest possible India XI for the World Test Championship final

1. Rohit Sharma

No question about it, Rohit Sharma will not only be an automated choice as an opener, but he will also be one of the key players for the Indian side in the final. His ability to score runs briskly and bat deeper into the innings could prove to a decisive factor if the team are to emerge as the Test Champions. At Southampton, the stage will be set for a Hitman special and who knows he might well end the drought of an overseas hundred in red-ball cricket at the biggest possible stage to do so.

2. Shubman Gill

Although it's been a prolonged run of poor form from the England series at home to the IPL, Gill is expected to get the nod ahead of Mayank Agarwal at least for the World Test Championship final. There are fewer aesthetically pleasing opening pairs than Rohit and Shubman in full form but the latter will have to step up and be more consistent with his run-making. He has shown what he is capable of during India's tour Down Under and it is just a matter of translating that into impactful performances.

3. Cheteshwar Pujara

India's ever-reliable number 3 Cheteshwar Pujara will be another guaranteed selection for the final. If the team is in a spot of bother and need someone to put his hand up or if a stroke maker in Rohit, Shubman or Kohli needs a partner to stitch a big partnership, more often than not the search ends on Pujara. The right-handed batter will continue to provide solidity to the team and would look to score big in what the Test specialists of the team have deemed as their equivalent of a World Cup.

Also Read: New Zealand’s Probable Playing XI for World Test Championship final against India

4. Virat Kohli

Oh captain, My Captain! This is truly Virat's team and one can sense it in the way the side goes for winning matches even when they seem dead and buried or under pressure. Virat Kohli would be eager to lead from the front and maybe even reach his 71st international ton in the process, a landmark the entire country has been waiting for since August 2019. At the big stage, the big men often want to leave their mark and with the world watching with bated breath, a Kohli's masterclass is more likely than not.

5. Ajinkya Rahane

At number 5, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will walk into the XI. Rahane has been the architect of quite a few famous Test wins overseas and he would be determined to give his best in a landmark match- the first World Test Championship final. With a good technique and a calm head on his shoulders, he will be another key player if India is to fulfil their dream of lifting their first ICC trophy since 2013.

6. Rishabh Pant

Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has been the X-factor for India lately. The southpaw can turn the match on its head in a span of 30-40 minutes by taking the attack back to the opposition and forcing them off their plans. After a great run Down Under, he would look to not only make an impact with the bat but also put up an improved performance behind the stumps. It's been an amazing few months for the Delhi lad and he would love to put the icing on the cake with a commanding performance in the summit clash.

7. Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja is fit and he will come into the XI after his splendid performances, not only against Australia in Australia but even in the IPL which showed his utility with the bat, ball and on the field. Given his improvement in batting, he can now not only play good little cameos but can even be trusted to finish off the match or play a substantial knock with the team under pressure. In addition, batters will know never ever take a chance against the arm of Jadeja in addition to playing him with caution when he is in the attack.

8. R. Ashwin

Now, this could be an interesting and debatable take. Although there is little doubt that Ashwin is the number 1 spinner in the country, the question will remain whether the conditions will allow two spinners in the XI. However, purely on stats and form, Ashwin will walk into the XI. He is a thorough match-winner and has even shown glimpses of his batting ability which had seen a major dip. However, with all the experience in the world and wickets even in alien conditions, Ashwin will be an invaluable asset to the side.

9. Mohammed Siraj

On current form, Mohammed Siraj is likely to beat Ishant Sharma for a place in the XI. He has improved by leaps and bounds in the limited time frame and has the backing of the captain and the coach, who are in high regards for his work ethics. Given how Siraj bowled and his reputation as someone who could be bowling consistently in the right areas, he would be a vital member of the XI on whom Kohli will rely for wickets and exerting pressure.

10. Mohammed Shami

Mohammed Shami is now the senior statesman in the side. He has increasingly made his name for his reverse-swinging delivery but can be equally effective and sometimes even deceptive with the new ball. The hard yards he has put in on his fitness is clearly reflecting on his game and given his experience, he would not only be able to support Siraj but will be one of the leaders of the bowling unit.

11. Jasprit Bumrah

Jasprit Bumrah will be the go-to man for Kohli. Not only does he has the ability to swing the ball but his unorthodox action, slower ones and yorkers take the conditions out of the equation. Facing Bumrah on any surface could be a bit challenging and given that it will be the big match, Kohli would hope that his ace bowler comes out on top more often than not and finds himself amongst the wickets.

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