April 15, 2023

India, Australia brace for the unknowns at the WTC final

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India are planning to equip their Test bowlers with the Dukes ball during the IPL so they have a chance to practice with it ahead of the World Test Championship with the crammed schedule providing challenges of how to prepare to face Australia at the Oval.

The final will take place from June 7 for 11 (with June 12 as a reserve day) which means the game starts barely a week after the IPL final is expected to take place, but Test captain Rohit Sharma hoped his pace attack would be able to tune up.

“We’re sending some new Dukes balls to all the fast bowlers as well to get them some time with that,” he said. “All of us have played in that part of the world so I don’t think it’s going be a huge problem. But, yeah, I believe in preparation, and preparation again is going to be key for us come the finals.”

India were confirmed as Australia’s opponents when New Zealand secured a thrilling two-wicket win off the final ball of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Christchurch as the players were taking lunch in Ahmedabad.
“I’m just being honest, we certainly did (follow it) today,” India coach Rahul Dravid told Star Sports. “More from the point of view it was getting really tight and close out there. It was really exciting to be following that in bits and pieces. We sort of followed it over the last four or five overs… it was lunch time for us.”

Both teams will have to navigate the complexities of the calendar which will see the IPL dominate the two months of April and May, but it is accentuated for India with only Cheteshwar Pujara of their likely line-up not involved in the tournament. For the bowlers, meanwhile, operating with the Dukes ball that is used for Tests in England was adopted by the ICC for the first final in 2021 brings with it different challenges compared to the SG or Kookaburra.

Rohit also said there would be a close eye kept on bowlers’ workloads during the IPL and he hoped that any Test players involved in the teams who don’t make the finals would be able to travel to England early.

“I think it’s quite critical for us,” he said. “We’re going to be in constant touch with all the IPL guys who are going to be part of that final to monitor their workload

“Around May 21, there will be six teams who would possibly be out of the IPL. So, whichever players are available, we will try and find some time to see if they can reach the UK as early as possible and get some time there.”

Australia missed out on the 2021 final, where New Zealand beat India, due to over-rate penalties and they have admitted in recent months that they have taken this WTC cycle more seriously. They secured their place with dominant home form – much like India – while picking up vital wins on the road in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and this tour.
“The guys are really pumped by it, really excited,” Steven Smith said. “We saw India when they came back out on the field just after New Zealand had won…shaking their hands and what have you. So it’s going to be great coming up against India in the final.

“The Oval wicket there can take some spin at times, particularly as the game wears on, so it could be interesting in terms of what sort of wicket we get. But it’s a great place to play cricket, there’s usually reasonable bounce and pace for an English wicket, it’s probably as close as you get to Australia potentially in terms of pace and bounce, so it’s going to be a great Test match.”

With the final taking place in the first part of June, which is still reasonably early in the UK season, it would be a surprise if there was much on offer for the spinners and Rohit conceded conditions would need some adjustment but was confident they would not be too unknown. The reserve day was needed to complete the first final in 2021 because of rain in Southampton.

“A neutral venue for both the teams, (but) both teams have played a lot of cricket in that part of the world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it will be alien conditions for both teams. But, yes, compared to what it is like for India in India or Australia playing in Australia, it’s not going to be like that. It’s going to be slightly different from that which I’m pretty sure both teams will prepare for it.”

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