The grand finale of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship (WTC) is just a month away and there is already a lot of excitement among the fans. Top two red-ball teams in the world right now - India and New Zealand are set to lock horns at Rose Bowl, Southampton for the final showdown from June 18-22. BCCI have announced a strong-looking 20-member squad for the Indian team and we have also discussed the probable playing XI that captain Virat Kohli might go with for the crucial contest.
But what about New Zealand? The Kiwis are going to be a very difficult opponent for India in the WTC Final. Kane Williamson-led side are a very dangerous outfit outside Asia, something that the fans witnessed when they thrashed India 2-0 in the Test series at home last year. Their 20 member squad for the final is as follows:
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Jacob Duffy, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryll Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Will Young.
Considering the conditions which will be on offer in Southampton, let us have a look at the probable line-up that the Kiwis might come up with for the epic finale.
New Zealand's Probable Playing XI for WTC Final
1. Tom Latham
The left-handed opener is the backbone of New Zealand's Test team. Tom Latham is one of the most reliable batsmen in the line-up and he will have to set up the platform for his side in the crucial final contest. The 29-year-old has amassed 680 runs in the 2019-21 WTC cycle and was the leading run-scorer when the two sides clashed in the Test series in 2020.
2. Tom Blundell
The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the most exciting openers in 5-day cricket in the last couple of years. Tom Blundell has established himself as a top opener for the Kiwis in his short career so far. The right-handed batsman has scored 538 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 38.43. He will need to provide a solid start for NZ against a good-looking Indian bowling attack.
3. Kane Williamson (c)
Captain, Leader, Legend - Kane Williamson is the No. 1 ICC Test batsman in the world. The right-handed batsman is one of the main reasons behind New Zealand's resurgence in 5-day cricket. In the 2019-21 WTC cycle, the Kiwi skipper scored a mammoth 817 runs in 9 matches at a scintillating average of 58.35. His wicket could actually decide the outcome of this game.
4. Ross Taylor
The NZ veteran has been out of action for a while but is expected to come back straight to the playing XI if deemed fit to play. Ross Taylor has been a great servant for Kiwis over the years, having scored 7380 runs in 105 Tests. The 37-year-old is one of the best players of spin and will have a huge task up his sleeves against the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
5. Henry Nicholls
The 29-year-old is the silent killer of the New Zealand side, whose contributions are often overshadowed by the brilliance of his teammates. Batting at No. 5, Henry Nicholls smashed 585 runs in 10 matches in the 2019-21 WTC cycle and was one of the most impressive batsmen for the Kiwis. With some of the most glorious cricket shots in his armoury, the left-hander has the ability to make an immense impact in the WTC final.
6. BJ Watling (Wk)
The 35-year-old has been one of the best Test wicket-keepers in world cricket since the last decade. The consistency with which BJ Watling chips in with match-winning knocks are praiseworthy and he is going to play a huge role in adding some crucial runs lower down the order for his side. With 8 hundred and 1 double-hundred to his name, the right-handed batsman might just want to add another ton to his impressive record in the biggest Test match of his career.
7. Colin de Grandhomme
The Kiwi all-rounder is a valuable asset for his side, providing balance to the team with his ability to make crucial contributions with both bat and ball. Batting lower down the order, Colin de Grandhomme's role has always been to launch a counter-attack that can completely turn the course of the game. He has a history of troubling Indian batsmen with his medium-pace bowling and could be very crucial. He has been out injured for a while and in case he doesn't recover on time, NZ have solid backup options in the form of Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santner.
8. Kyle Jamieson
The 26-year-old pacer has been one of the stories in world cricket. Standing 6 feet 8 inches tall, Kyle Jamieson has proven to be a nightmare for batsmen in red-ball cricket. The fast-bowlers took 36 wickets in only 6 matches in the 2019-21 WTC cycle and single-handedly destroyed the batting line-ups of India and Pakistan in the Test series. He can also contribute with some crucial runs lower down the order and will be one of the players to watch out for in the finals.
9. Tim Southee
The veteran fast-bowler is the leader of New Zealand's bowling attack. In the 2019-21 WTC cycle, Tim Southee was at his lethal best as he picked 51 wickets on only 10 matches at an average of 20.66. The 32-year-old is one of the best bowlers when the ball is moving and in the seam-friendly English conditions, he is certainly going to pose a huge challenge to the Indian batsmen.
10. Trent Boult
The left-arm pacer has always been a nightmare for Indian batsmen, no matter what the format is. Trent Boult's swinging deliveries against the likes of Rohit, Pujara and Kohli will be a sight to watch for all the cricket lovers across the globe. The 31-year-old took 9 wickets in 2 matches when the two sides met in 2020 and is certainly going to be the biggest threat for India in the WTC final.
11. Neil Wagner
The selection of the fourth bowler is going to be a tough decision for NZ management. While they also have the option of a spin-bowler like Ajaz Patel, it is expected that they will opt for Neil Wagner because of the variety he brings to the bowling attack. The left-arm pacer can trouble the Indian batsmen with his challenging short-pitch deliveries and can certainly turn the tides in the blink of an eye. Because of the unique challenge he can pose, Wagner is expected to get a nod ahead of other bowlers on the bench.