Much water has flowed under The Thames since India took on New Zealand in the last ICC World Test Championship final in the wet summer of 2021. This time, the venue is the historic The Oval, in London, from June 7, 2023.
There is good and bad news for India. Good, first, making the final. Bad is key players missing, which includes, in order of injury, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, and possibly Shreyas Iyer. Pant’s absence is due to the car accident in late December and his current recovery process. Bumrah underwent back surgery in New Zealand and will be under intense rehab for six months. Now the big worry is how Shreyas Iyer is also unfit. He did not bat in the fourth Test of the BGT Series in Ahmedabad and a flare-up of the back injury has the BCCI worried.
News trickling is that he will miss the ODIs as well against Australia. How and why these injuries flare up is a concern, as he is a big player. Or so, fans thought. One saw in the BGT Series how KL Rahul was given too many chances and eventually, Shubman Gill came in as the opener. His century in the Ahmedabad Test proved how it was wrong to leave him out. At the same time, not grooming Surya Kumar Yadav in the Tests was bad. He is in sublime form and must have been given chances in Tests.
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Going to the ICC World Test final minus the experience of Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah will be big
There are big challenges ahead for the BCCI and its think-tank. Going to the ICC World Test final minus the experience of Pant and Bumrah will be big. How many players will be fit for the final will also be important. The IPL will drain out most players. India are still struggling to get the right mix for various formats — Test, ODIs, and T20. The main focus is on the ICC World Cup this October/November in India.
However, the ICC Test final is also important and prestigious. Injuries are worrying, though old war horses like R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have shown great zest and zeal. Axar Patel was important in the BGT Series, but the pace could be the key focus at The Oval. Luckily, the wicketkeeper, KS Bharat has done well as a replacement for Pant. He has donned the gloves well and also scored runs.
When India flopped in the last attempt at the 2021 final, Kane Williamson was the hero. The Aussies will be bolstered by the return of skipper Pat Cummins. However, India have more worries before the June date. From flat pitches in the IPL to The Oval will be a crazy change. Does anyone care?
Workload management in India is a nascent topic. Fast bowlers cannot be ground to dust like Bumrah was. As a strike bowler, Bumrah was special. Mohd Shami has the experience and swing to shoulder the load in June at The Oval. Yet, there are question marks if this Indian team which will tour England for a big assignment will be best prepared.
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