New Delhi, India: India’s upcoming World Test Championship final against New Zealand will be their biggest ever game, coach Ravi Shastri said Wednesday as the team set off for an extended England tour.
Team India will take on New Zealand in Southampton from June 18 to 22 for the final of the World Test Championship. They will then play a bilateral Test series against the hosts England.
“It is the first time you have a Test Championship final,” Shastri told journalists alongside Indian captain Virat Kohli.
“When you look at that and the magnitude of the game that is going to be played, I think this is the biggest, if not the biggest ever.”
Kohli’s India and Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, the two top-ranked Test teams, will be declared joint winners of the WTC if the final ends in a draw or a tie.
“It is the toughest form of the game. It is a format that tests you,” Shastri said, adding that all players involved had “played around the world and earned their stripes.”
Captain Kohli, also one of the top-rated batsmen in world cricket, said that the WTC final held a lot of value.
“This being first of its kind, and in the toughest format. All of us take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket,” he said.
The Indian skipper said that his team’s presence at the WTC final showed how much “progress” had been made over the last few years.
India, unlike New Zealand, won’t play any international matches in Britain before the WTC final, though Kohli said he felt that wouldn’t be an issue.
“In the past too we have landed at places three days prior (to the match) and have had a very good series,” he said. “It is not like we are playing for the first time.”
January saw Shastri guide a young Indian team — with Kohli absent — to a historic Test series victory against Australia.
They then followed it up with a 3-1 series win against England in March to seal their WTC final spot as the top-ranked Test nation.
But their coach said Wednesday he felt that the WTC final could change formats and not just be a single match between the two top teams.
“In the long run… a best of three would be ideal,” Shastri said.
And given the global pandemic and tough quarantine rules, both the coach and captain said they saw having two Indian squads competing separately in the near future as more practical.
“It is very difficult for the players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space just confined in one area,” Kohli told journalists. “Just doing the stuff day in and day out, and dealing with high-pressure situations.”
“(Two squads) will definitely become the norm of the future,” he said.