That also means India have only five specialist batters in the line-up, followed by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant
India will field two spinners at the WTC final, naming both Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin in their XI on the eve of the match that gets underway in Southampton on June 18. In all, Virat Kohli will have five bowlers to work with, with Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah also in the XI. That also means India have only five specialist batters in the line-up, followed by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.
The development marks the return of Jadeja and Shami to the playing XI – they had missed the home series against England after picking injuries on the Australia tour – and it will be the first time Ishant, Shami, Bumrah, Ashwin and Jadeja play a Test match together.
India announcing their XI on the eve of the game – as opposed to waiting till toss time – might come as a mild surprise to some, considering the very poor weather forecast for Friday and the consequent changes that might occur to conditions.
India captain Virat Kohli said that the weather, however fickle it might be, had no bearing on the combinations the team had finalised. “No, it [the weather] does not change [things] from our point of view as a team,” he told the media on match eve. “For us, it is about covering all the bases and making sure that we take the strongest side we can be on the park, which gives us batting depth and gives us enough bowling options as well. We are quite clear in terms of what we want to do. The forecast is something we are not focused on.
“We are not going to think too much about what might change. We are not bothered with what the weather holds. Do we need to change the outlook of the team altogether? No. Obviously how you approach the game and the decisions that you make day-to-day, they alter when the conditions are different. But not your whole team altogether.”
The biggest Test? ‘No’, but India continue ‘quest for excellence’ While India head coach Ravi Shastri had said the WTC final would be the “biggest” match for India, Kohli decided against using such superlatives. Asked whether winning the WTC final would be on par with winning the 2011 World Cup, Kohli said he wanted India to treat it like another Test match without getting carried away. “For me this is another Test match that has to be played. These things are very exciting from the outside where there is so much importance and so much other extra stuff that’s attached to one game and it sort of becomes do-and-die.
“For us as a team we have been on a quest for excellence for a while now. And we are going to continue to be on that path regardless of what happens in this game. We have no doubts whatsoever in our abilities and what we can do as a side.
“As an individual player, look, we won the 2011 World Cup which was a great moment for all of us. But cricket goes on. Just the way life goes on. And you have to treat failure and success the same way, and you have to treat the so-called outstandingly big moments pretty similar to the other moments as well.
“So, yes, it is an occasion that has to be enjoyed from our point of view, but it is not different for us or no more important for us than the first Test match that we played together as a young group of players back in the day when we were trying to come up the ranks. So, yes, the mindset remains the same.”
Kohli not concerned about lack of ICC title under him The last ICC tournament India won was the 2013 Champions Trophy, when MS Dhoni was the captain. In the 2016 World T20, played at home, India lost in the semis. A year later they would lose to Pakistan in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. In the 2019 World Cup, Kane Williamson’s New Zealand pipped Kohli’s India in the semi-finals. However Kohli remained unfazed about being on the cusp of possibly lifting his first ICC Trophy.
“If you win this game, cricket does not stop for us. If you lose this game, cricket does not stop for us. Our processes, our mindset is what matters to us the most and we are striving for excellence every day.”
“If you are talking about Test cricket and deciding who is the best Test team in the world on one game over a period of five days, that’s not the reality of the truth,” Kohli said. “It is not going to reflect anything for people who really understand the game and know exactly what has gone on in the last four to five years and how the teams have fared. You can very well look back at history and focus on things that didn’t go your way. At the end of the day you realise you play sport and you are going to be beaten and you are going to win on a particular day.
“If you win this game, cricket does not stop for us. If you lose this game, cricket does not stop for us. Our processes, our mindset is what matters to us the most and we are striving for excellence every day. And we step on to the field every Test match or every game that we play wanting to win. That’s the most you can ask of your players – to stand up in tough situations and keep proving that you belong here and you take a lot of pride in playing for India.
“We have not come here to just play one-off Test. We have come here to play six Tests in the English summer. Our players understand well their strengths and they understand how to utlise those strengths and they will do that during these six Tests.