Team India will play against New Zealand in the much-awaited final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship at Rose Bowl, Southampton. The final showdown has been scheduled to be played from June 18 to June 22 and is expected to be a thrilling encounter. However, it is going to be a huge challenge for the Indian side against the Kiwis, who whitewashed Virat Kohli's side in New Zealand last year in very similar conditions that will be on offer in Southampton.
But a lot has changed for the Indian Test side since that heavy defeat. The historic series win against Australia down under was followed by an emphatic home series victory against England. The No. 1 ranked team will now be raring to go against No. 2 ranked Kiwis in what is going to be the battle of the best to become the ultimate champion.
As per reports, BCCI has asked the selection committee to pick a 22-24 member squad for the WTC Final. But, the big question is - What is the ideal playing XI for India that can challenge New Zealand?
India's Probable Playing XI for WTC Final
1. Rohit Sharma
The stylish right-handed batsman has finally established himself as a Test opener after an impressive last two years in the whites. In the 2019-21 WTC cycle, Rohit Sharma scored 1030 runs in 17 innings at a dazzling average of 64.37. The 34-year-old is going to be key for India at top of the order because if he shines, he can single-handedly take his side to a match-winning total.
2. Shubman Gill
The 21-year-old youngster had an impressive debut series against Australia after Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw were dropped from the team. Shubman Gill grabbed his opportunity with both hands and went on to smash 259 runs in 6 innings against a lethal Aussie bowling attack. Although he was not at his absolute best against England, Gill is expected to partner Hitman at top of the order for the grand finale.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
India's No. 3 is the backbone of the side and is going to be the most important player, especially in challenging English conditions. Cheteshwar Pujara was India's leading run-scorer in Australia, with 271 runs in 4 matches to his name. The 33-year-old will have to play another marathon innings in Southampton against a deadly Kiwi bowling attack.
4. Virat Kohli (c)
The man for the big occasion, India's skipper Virat Kohli will be raring to put an end to his 2-year long century drought in the all-important WTC Final. The 32-year-old has always stepped up for his side when required the most and it would be a perfect setting for him to play a big knock. Having managed to score only 172 runs in 6 innings against England, Kohli will come out all guns blazing in this contest.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
India's vice-captain has been the most consistent player for his side in the WTC 2019-21 cycle. Ajinkya Rahane has scored 1095 runs in 28 innings at an impressive average of 43.80 and emerged as India's leading run-scorer in the campaign. The 32-year-old is one of the most technically gifted batsmen in the side and is going to be vital against the Kiwis.
6. Rishabh Pant (wk)
India's wicketkeeper has completely revived himself to become a match-winner in the Test format. Rishabh Pant was India's highest run-scorer in the famous series win in Australia as he smashed 274 runs in 5 innings at a scintillating average of 68.50. The southpaw has climbed to No. 6 in ICC Test player's rankings and will want to play another game-changing knock in the finals.
7. Ravindra Jadeja
India are likely to go with Ravindra Jadeja as their spin-bowling all-rounder for this huge contest. The 32-year-old provides solidity to the batting line-up and contribute with some vital runs lower down the order, something his side might require in the WTC Final. He can take some crucial wickets with his consistent line and length bowling and couple with his fielding heroics, Jadeja is expected to feature in the playing XI for this mega contest.
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
The off-spinner has been India's leading wicket-taker in the WTC 2019-21 cycle with 67 wickets in 13 matches to his name. While Ravichandran Ashwin has taken wickets on a regular basis, he has also contributed with some crucial runs and would be needed to do the same in the finals. The 34-year-old will have to be at his absolute best against the Kiwis.
9. Ishant Sharma
The fast-bowler returned from his injury and played all four matches against England. While Ishant Sharma took only 6 wickets an average of 26.67 in spin-friendly conditions, he showed glimpses of his class with his deadly line and length. The 32-year-old is the leader of the Indian pace attack and is expected to play a huge role in WTC Final.
10. Mohammed Shami
Mohammed Shami is another player who has been out of action for a while due to injury. However, the fast-bowler did return to action during IPL 2021 and looked fit. He is someone who can exploit the English conditions in the best way possible with his ability to move the ball both ways. Because of his experience, Shami is expected to get a nod ahead of Mohammed Siraj who has been sensational for India in the last two series.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
The 27-year-old has emerged out as one of the most dependable players for India in Test format. With an ability to deceive the batsmen with his pace and unorthodox action, Jasprit Bumrah is going to be vital if India have to pose a challenge to Kiwi batsmen. He was at his lethal best against Australia, where he took 11 wickets in 3 matches and will be hoping to repeat a similar performance in WTC Final.