Here we are, 2 years on we have reached the final of the inaugural world test championship, and thankfully the tournament, which has been in the pipeline since 2008, has been vindicated. No matter how the game goes no one can deny that this game will be the two best test teams in the world facing off against one another. Those who pushed for the tournament can now point to the first rendition and claim that no matter what happens the best teams will come out on top. Naturally, they will avoid some factors that have almost certainly made a demonstrable difference to the outcome: the Australian men's tour to South Africa being cancelled, England coming off the field an hour early against Pakistan and England essentially forefitting in India after going 1-0 up. Most of all Covid pushing back the tournament, meaning that some games are still being played at the same time as the final itself. Conversely, the tournament has added context to games and changed the way some matches are viewed. Previously no one had much interest in the outcome of a West Indies vs New Zealand series, bar seeing who makes runs ahead of them touring each fan's respective countries, but this time around those games have been watched with eagle eyes. The tournament is still early so failures are almost guaranteed but to say it hasn’t worked is equivalent to saying that JFK wasn’t killed by the CIA- just ignoring the facts.
For the game itself? Well, it will be a close one; I mean it’s almost impossible to call. The teams are both so evenly matched that predicting the outcome is borderline nonsensical. Instead, I will select 3 players from the respective sides that will be crucial for any chance of success either team will have. For starters here is my predicted Xis.
Kane Williamson ©
Bj Watling (wk)
Colin De Grandhomme
Virat Kohli ©
Rishabh Pant (wk)
Mohammad Shami/Mohammad Siraj
The kiwi Xi almost picks itself and with the forecast over the next few days and the exceptional records of the Indian batsmen against spin (especially that bloke at number 6), there will be no need for Ajaz Patel. It is largely the same for India, but the 3rd seamer is a bit tougher with Mohammad Siraj’s impressive winter performances almost meaning he has to play whilst Mohammad Shami is arguably Indias greatest ever seamer.
But who are the key cogs on each side?
Well, it was always going to be him, wasn’t it? The man who has done so much for New Zealand cricket yet has never quite been there where it truly mattered. Tomorrow, however, Williamson will be looking to correct this and deliver in the biggest test match in the history of the game. Williamson is coming in off the back of 2 very poor innings vs England and his, well-documented, struggles against the moving ball are becoming more of an issue innings by innings. Good players don’t stay down for long and Williamson is one of the finest going so New Zealand fans will be hoping he bounces back in time for the final.
Originally Southee was going to be my pick here but seeing Trent Bould bowl against England has convinced me that he is the key. Boult is quicker than Southee, fitter, and by all means, he is bowling the best he ever has or at least the best I've ever seen him bowl in the New Zealand whites. Extravagant movement both ways and the ability to work over batsmen combined with his peculiar left-arm angle makes him a seriously dangerous proposition. Honestly deciding between the two is splitting hairs but the left armer just nips it for me. If Boult can get on a roll and the weather forecast is correct then he can rip through India in a session all by himself. Boult is a world-class operator who will be key to any success New Zealand are to have.
Nicholls is slowly molding himself into one of the best test match batsmen going and this game will undoubtedly be the biggest of his career so far. Nicholls is the greatest player of a good length ball going and it showed vs England with him occupying the crease for a long time in the 1st test and being able to keep the good balls out. India has a world-class seam attack so having a player like Nicholls in your team is already a massive boost. In terms of what Nicholls brings to this Kiwi side: a certain sense of stability and knowing what you'll get married with a grittiness and cocksure nature that is vital to perform on the biggest stages and Nicholls is certainly capable of making a big score here and cementing his name in the history of New Zealand greats. Henry Nicholls, the stage is yours.
Much like Williamson, this was a fairly obvious pick and much like the Kiwi skipper, it’s obvious for a good reason. Over the past 3 years, Ishant Sharma has reinvented himself and has been Indias best seamer by quite some distance. Sharma has consistently performed to a high standard taking wickets in all conditions and extracting superb swing and seam movement wherever he has toured. Combine Sharma's new ball skills with a dark duke ball and you have a seriously deadly combination who will be looking to take advantage of the left handers in New Zealand's top 6. Sharma is already one of India best ever seamers but a good game here could put him at the top of the pile.
It is hard to remember a recent Indian success and not think of Ravindra Jadeja. Both tours to Australia are the first ones that spring to mind with him being crucial in all the wins bar one but especially at both Melbourne tests. Jadeja was ranked Cricviz's 2nd most valuable test player this century with his batting and bowling being extremely useful in all conditions. Jadeja is now cemented in the number 7 spot and has a chance to prove to his ever-present doubters why he is one of the greatest all-rounders of all time.
It had to be, didn’t it? Indias best player of the past 12 months; their hero down under and the man who took apart James Anderson. Pant is slowly turning into one of the finest test batsmen going and the usual criticism placed on him is slowly dying with his temperament and acknowledgment of the game situation improving with every innings. Pant will need to be at his very best in what will be tricky conditions but if the little man gets all cylinders firing I can only see this contest going one way.
Well, the final is soon to start so I will leave you here with my prediction. As I have previously stated, the decision to pick a winner is near impossible, but I can see it going to the blackcaps, but only by an inch. New Zealand has a more well-rounded attack for these conditions and if 2 of them aren’t up to scratch the others can make up for it and sadly India does not have this luxury.
Do you agree with my predictions? Let me know on Twitter @therunoutblog1