WTC Final: Playing Aussies in English conditions a challenge, says Vengsarkar

The issue of switching modes from the slambang white ball cricket in the IPL to red ball in the English conditions will be challenging for the men in blue

The Indian cricket team at The Oval  (Photo courtesy: @BCCI/ Twitter)
The Indian cricket team at The Oval (Photo courtesy: @BCCI/ Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It will once again be a chance for India to end their drought of a major ICC title in the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final, but a former Indian great feels that the job will not be easy. They square off against Pat Cummins’ Australia at The Oval from Wednesday.

The issue of switching modes from the slambang white ball cricket in the IPL to red ball in the English conditions will be again a challenge for Rohit Sharma’s men. The BCCI made arrangements to fly them out to England in phases, with the likes of Virat Kohli, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur-- whose teams failed to make the IPL play-offs--landing up there earlier and the rest catching up later.

‘’The challenge lies in the fact that these two teams, which have played a four-Test series only earlier this year, will be playing at a neutral venue. India have beaten Australia in Australia twice in recent years but they will be up against them in England in early summer – with the red Duke ball moving around a lot and there will be bounce too,’’ remarked Dilip Vengsarkar, the man with three centuries at the Lord’s.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

Speaking to National Herald in an exclusive chat over phone, ‘The Colonel’ felt it would be a question of which side can adapt better as it’s a one-off contest with no second chance.

‘’It would have been better if Rohit’s men got a chance to play a warm-up game, but that’s how the itinerary works these days. Predicting an outcome of the match is difficult but most of the members of the current Indian team have played a lot there and you can expect almost 80 per cent of the crowd at The Oval to be Indians,’’ said Vengsarkar, a former Indian captain.

The inaugural WTC final in 2021, played at the culmination of the 2019-21 cycle, saw Kane Williamson’s Kiwis putting it past India by eight wickets at the Rose Bowl in Southampton in a thriller. India will be fielding the same top five in the batting order in skipper Rohit, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane with either K.S.Bharat or Ishan Khan stepping in for Rishabh Pant as the No.6 batter.

Given the importance of the openers giving a good start in a contest as this, is Vengsarkar a trifle worried about the skipper’s lack of form in the IPL? ‘’Not really. Both are excellent players and Rohit has shown in the past he has what it takes to succeed in England by playing close to the body and has tons of experience. Let’s not go by his shortage of runs in the IPL…Shubman, on the other hand, has been around for a while now,’’ he said. 

A staunch backer of Kohli even during his lean trot with the bat as captain, the Indian batting legend is not surprised that the former has rediscovered his touch over the last eight to nine months. ‘’Kohli is one of the best in the world. It’s a very big game for him and I think he can convert in his good form in white ball cricket on the big stage as well,’’ Vengsarkar said.

Looking at the Australian team, for whom the WTC final will be a perfect dress rehearsal for the upcoming Ashes, Vengsarkar said they had ‘’enough depth in batting and bowling’’ but he would be following Pat Cummins’ performance as a captain keenly. ‘’There had been some talk in recent times about bringing back Steve Smith as the captain ahead of the next Ashes in place of Cummins. It will be interesting to see how Cummins, their main fast bowler, copes with the pressure as a leader,’’ he said.

Asked if the Australians have mellowed a lot since Vengsarkar’s times, with an over-exposure of players from both sides thanks to the IPL, he felt it’s not going to effect their intensity on the field. ‘’Let’s not forget they have done exceedingly well in England in recent years. There will be no dearth of competitive edge in the game as it’s a battle to wear the mantle of World Test Champions,’’ he signed off.

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