World Test Championship Final: 2 Routes, 1 Destination!

‘Prevention’ & ‘Precaution’ ~ The two ‘P’s which are excessively repeated in our current day-to-day conversations. And rightly so because it’s often taken for granted by most of us. Just like the two ‘A’s ~ ‘Adjust’ & ‘Acclimatise’ are, by the touring parties in cricket! Partly due to complacency & partly due to under-estimation. The negligence of this factor has the potential to be the difference between a win and a loss (and in parallels to life, between survival & death).

The 18th of June is the date that’s marked on everyone’s calendar as the ‘World Test Championship Final’. The Indian team is set to touchdown on the English soil on 3rd June, which leaves them with 15 odd days to fine-tune themselves. This allotted time seems to be more than enough, but the ‘Quarantine’ checkbox needs to be ticked too. No formal practice match is scheduled as well. So, ‘Intra-Squad’ games and ‘Match Simulations’ are their only available resorts.

WTC Final: India, NZ to be adjudged joint winners in case of draw or tie. (Reuters Photo)

Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli (Image: BCCI | Twitter)

‘Will that be sufficient?’ one is bound to ask! This interrogative question transforms into a rhetorical one when one learns that the other finalist, New Zealand, will play a two-test series against England. It’s an opportunity to supplement their preparations. However, the Kiwis don’t sound too keen on the latter prospect, which in fact is the right mindset. But we all know that deep down, it’s more of a ‘silent acceptance’ than this ‘vocal denial’:

“We’re not going to treat these two Test matches against England just as warm-ups (for the WTC final)”

Neil Wagner, before leaving for the United Kingdom.

To win the championship, the Indian team needs to hit the bullseye on the very first dart they throw! The luxury of ‘hit & trial’ isn’t quite there. From playing the ideal XI to charting the perfect game plans, every aspect should be absolutely spot-on. And what is worrying the fans is that, like them, the team is also on a zero ‘cricket’ diet from the first week of May. And more precisely, it’s been more than 3 months since the team had the taste of a ‘red cherry’

Though, the hiatus in IPL has given the players ample time to rejuvenate themselves. The ‘Bio-Bubble’ life was slowly and steadily wearing them out. It felt like one long stretch which began from the last edition in the UAE. Their physical and, more importantly, mental recovery must have received a boost. Unlike in 11′, 14′ or 18′, this time, the tourists won’t be drenched in the razzle-dazzle of playing in cricket’s richest league. Their thirst to be ‘on the field’ won’t be quenched, which wasn’t the case in any of the ‘hat-trick’ humiliating series losses.

Many Players Complained of Mental Fatigue Caused by Life in the Bio Bubble (Image: Navdeep Saini | Instagram)

Post the iconic WC ’11 win, the then ‘Numero Uno’ team in Tests was up against the English side at the Lords. The newly crowned ‘World Champions’ could only manage a moderate 286 in their first innings. Rahul Dravid’s 103*, played in his true trademark style, was the only effort to salvage some pride. Again in 2018, no one stood tall in the first innings of the first test except the captain, Virat Kohli. He concealed the scratchy show of others with a magnificent 149, which amassed for more than half of the team score – 274. If we deduct the contributions of these two batsmen from the respective totals, the paltry remainders are sufficient innuendos in themselves. 

The 1st match on the tour of 14′ is an exception to this trend. The Indian batsmen made merry on the ‘lifeless’ pitch of the Trent Bridge. With all due respect, Bhuvneshwar Kumar pitched in with a fifty-plus score in both innings and even Mohammed Shami came to the party as he registered his maiden half-century. No rewards for guessing ~ Yes, the ICC condemned the pitch by rating it ‘poor’! However, we are building to the WTC Final, so expecting such dull playing conditions will be unreasonable. It’s no secret that the WTC (not in this curtail format though) has been ICC’s dream project, hence, the committee will definitely press for a ‘result-oriented’ surface for good advertising

We all remember KL Rahul’s inconsistency against the red Dukes ball in 18′, don’t we? It has stuck in our minds for his dip in form was highly unexpected. He was toying with the bowlers in the preceding IPL (650+ runs in 14 matches) and he followed it up with a 101* in the Old Trafford T20I. It took time for his touch to return in the white flannels as he failed to stroke even a single half century in the first four tests. He finally came good on the final innings of the tour with a magnificent 149!

The crux of the matter is that even the best in the business require time to settle in against the swinging and seaming deliveries. After playing the shortest version of cricket for over 2 months, the instinct to attack seeps into their system. The transition to the longest form is therefore opposed by the mind and the body likewise. It’s like being suddenly forced to wake up in the wee hours, in a remote village, for someone who’s more suited to the nightlife of a posh city. As they say, the struggle is real! 

WTC final: India got many players to cover all bases, picking the XI  toughest for them - Colin de Grandhomme - Sports News

The Indian Team Has No Practice Matches Scheduled Ahead Of The Final (Image: BCCI | Twitter)

The hangover needs to be shaken off and the body-clock, which has gone for a toss, mandates recalibration. Similarly, the batsmen have to ‘unlearn’ their power game and then ‘re-learn’ the subtle nuisances. And this theory isn’t valid for batsmanship alone, it’s also applicable to the aspect of bowling and fielding (especially slip-fielding). Hence, the current 45-day break will at least make the team better prepared for the all-important final in terms of ‘temperament’, if not necessarily ‘technique’ wise.

New Zealand’s route of preparation is perhaps the ideal one. They have factored in ‘Prevention’ & ‘Precaution’ in their preparations. In the lead-up to the Ageas Rose Bowl (WTC Final Stadium), they will cover the milestones ‘Adjust’ & ‘Acclimatise’ by crossing Lord’s & Edgbaston, the venues for their series against England. On the contrary, the Indian team will directly check in to the Hilton Hotel of Southampton. Though, it’s more out of compulsion than choice. Even if the Kiwis get devastated by the hosts, they would still get rich in the intangible wealth of experience, an asset that can never be under-valued. What’s your say, Sunny G?

Featured Image: Image: BCCI | Instagram

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