Having lost the 2022 World Test Championship final, India will be keen to win its first WTC title, when they take on Australia in the final, which begins in London on June 7, 2023.
India will take a lot of confidence from their recent 2-1 series win against Australia at home on spin-friendly tracks, but they could expect the conditions to be vastly different at The Oval in London.
India don’t hold a good record at The Oval where they have won just two out of 14 Tests, losing five with the remaining ending in draws.
They won their last match at The Oval in September 2021 when they beat England by 157 runs despite conceding a 99 run first innings lead.
Rohit Sharma scored a a fine century while Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur contributed half-centuries to India’s first win at The Oval since winning the third Test against England back on September 1971.
The fatigue factor could come into play especially with the WTC final to be played a week after the IPL final.
Gujarat Titan’s Mohammed Shami will be keen for some time away from cricket after the continuous travelling during the IPL as he featured in all 16 matches for his franchise, bowling a total of 62 overs before the IPL 2023 final.
In comparison, the Australian pace attack — Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Scott Boland, who didn’t play the IPL — will be fresh and raring to go.
Among the other Indian players featuring in the IPL are Gujarat Titans’ Shubman Gill and K S Bharat, and CSK’s Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja.
The Oval has traditionally been known to produce good balanced wickets for Test cricket, with the pacers getting some assistance on the first two days, but the batters also enjoy the good even pace and bounce, with the spinners come into the play on the last two days.
India will take a lot of confidence from the recent form of their top batters in the IPL including Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, while Cheteshwar Pujara has found form in English county cricket with two centuries and a fifty in his last matches for Sussex.
India don’t have much choice in the batting as Rohit, Gill, Kohli, Pujara and Rahane are expected to be the top five, with K S Bharat taking over the gloves.
What bowling combination they pick will be interesting to note. In their last Test at The Oval, India went in with four pacers including all-rounder Shardul Thakur while playing a lone spinner in Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Former India head coach Ravi Shastri believes India could consider playing two spinners in Jadeja and Ashwin, with the former taking over the No 6 slot in the batting if the pitch does offer turn.
‘If the track is hard and dry, you would want two spinners to play for sure,’ Shastri said. It’s sunny now at the moment, but you know, English weather, how it can change in June. So there’s a very good chance India will go with two spinners, two fast bowlers and an all-rounder. That will be the combination. And then there’ll be five batsmen and the wicket-keeper, so six batsmen.”
Ashwin and Jadeja’s good contributions with the bat in the last couple of years makes them indispensable lower down the order. However, if there is rain and if conditions suit the seamers, India could play an extra pace bowler with Shardul as the all-rounder in place of either Ashwin or Jadeja.
In all probability, Jadeja could get the nod ahead of Ashwin if India plays just one spinner as the left-hander could bat in the middle order to provide some variety in the all right-hander batting line-up.
India’s bowlers will have their task cut as Australia’s top batters including Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Harris have warmed up nicely for the WTC final by playing county cricket for the past few weeks.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, K S Bharat (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
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