Talisman batsman Virat Kohli along with R Ashwin reached England last week, followed by skipper Rohit with the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, who was included as a stand-by player in place of Ruturaj Gaikwad
Team India (Pic: AFP)
The finalists for the WTC final depended heavily on the results of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series held in February-March this year. Australia secured the top spot in the WTC 2021–23 standings with a percentage of 66.67% and 152 points, while India secured second place with a percentage of 58.8% and 127 points.
The Men in Blue will return to international cricket after a break of nearly three months and kickstart the 2023-24 season with the high-profile ICC World Test Championship (WTC) against Australia from June 7 to 11. It is noteworthy that Team India hasn't won an ICC trophy since ten years and will be keen to end its medal jinx.
Most Indian players, except for the ones who featured in the final of IPL 2023, are already in England at the moment ramping up preparations for the one-off match against the Pat Cummins-led side, which finished at the top of the WTC 2021–23 cycle. Talisman batsman Virat Kohli along with R Ashwin reached England last week, followed by skipper Rohit with the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, who was included as a stand-by player in place of Ruturaj Gaikwad.
The Indian cricket team will be looking to seize every opportunity to ensure they lift the WTC Final trophy. Their talisman batsman Virat Kohli has scored 8416 runs in 183 Test innings overall, with his highest score being 254 against South Africa in 2019. He has amassed 28 centuries and 28 half-centuries in Test format with an exceptional batting average of 48.93.
Captain Sharma, who was also India's best batter on their 2021-2022 tour of England, will form a very crucial part of the side's formidable batting uint against the Australia pace attack. The in-form Shubman Gill will partner Rohit at the top of the order, who is set to make amends to his below par Test record in England.
The flamboyant Cheteshwar Pujara will rely on his stupendous form in England (1,718 runs at 85.90 with eight hundreds in 15 matches). His matchups against Nathan Lyon will be of special interest when the duo clash for the first time outside their respective home nations. Pujara has 7514 Test runs in 174 innings, with his highest score being 206 against England in 2012. He has scored 19 centuries and 35 half-centuries, with an impressive batting average of 43.88.
Ajinkya Rahane has been in terrific form of late, albeit in a format and conditions as different from a Test match at The Oval as possible, and will be gunning for glory alongside other veterans. Ravindra Jadeja's all-round excellence will have a pivotal role to play at the Oval. As a left-hander, he will also be key in the middle-order.
KS Bharat is expected to step up in the absence of an injured Rishabh Pant, and history has it that he can perform his best in crunch situations, and he will hope to reprise that role again.
To play or not to play Ashwin? Team India will once again face the Ashwin conundrum. If the conditions at the Oval favour pace more, Shardul Thakur should get the nod ahead of India's leading wicket-taker. In Test cricket, Ashwin has taken 474 wickets in 92 matches. He has taken 32 five-wicket hauls and seven 10-wicket hauls. In batting terms, he has scored 3129 runs in 131 innings. His highest score of 124 came against West Indies in 2016. He has scored five centuries and 13 half-centuries.
Umesh Yadav finished as India's best bowler when India last played at the Oval in 2021, with 3-76 and 3-60, in what was his only second Test in England. He was in a good form against Australia earlier this year. In 2018, Umesh Yadav scalped a 10-wicket haul against West Indies. His best bowling figures were six wickets for 88 runs against West Indies.
Spearheading the India attack in Bumrah’s absence, Mohammed Shami will be key to India’s success, as will be Mohammed Siraj. Siraj has taken 47 wickets in 18 matches, thus proving himself as one of the most influential emerging players in Test cricket. Jaydev Unadkat has only played two matches for Team India in Test cricket. He has claimed three wickets against Bangladesh in Test format.