India and New Zealand will take on each other in the final of the first ever World Test Championship starting Friday, June 18. The final will bring to an end a two-year tournament that commenced in August 2019. The clash will also see Indian players in action for the first time since the Indian Premier League (IPL) was temporarily disbanded last month.
If you’re a test cricket novice, we got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the tournament.
While cricket’s shorter formats, one-day internationals and T20Is, have world cups to decide the world champion, the test champion was traditionally determined on the basis of ICC rankings at the end of each annual season.
However in recent years, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been attempting to make test cricket more contextual and thus more appealing to the masses, which gave birth to the World Test Championship in 2019. The tournament would feature the world’s top nine test playing nations play six bilateral test series each over a span of two years, with points being awarded for each win. The top two teams on the table at the end of the cycle would then play the final.
However with COVID-19 disrupting the international cricket calendar, not all teams were able to play six test series, which is why the ICC shifted the points system to percentage points in a bid to make the standings fair.
Over the two year cycle, India played three home series (against South Africa, Bangladesh and England) and three away series (against West Indies, New Zealand and Australia), and managed to win five out of these. Their only series loss, incidentally, came against their fellow finalists.
New Zealand, meanwhile, won at home against India, West Indies and Pakistan, while drawing with Sri Lanka and losing to Australia on their away assignments.
With a win percentage of 72.20%, India topped the standings. New Zealand finished not far behind with 70%.
The test match will be played at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, England. The final was initially set to take place at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, but was moved to Southampton due to COVID-19 concerns and logistical considerations.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham (vice captain), Devon Conway, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wicketkeeper), Colin de Grandhomme, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Trent Boult, Will Young, Tom Blundell (wicketkeeper), Neil Wagner, Matt Henry.
Vice captain Ajinkya Rahane is India’s highest run-scorer in the tournament, with 1,095 at an average of 47.25 with three centuries. Opener Rohit Sharma comes in second with 1,030 runs at 64.49 with four hundreds. In the bowling department, ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin tops the chart with 67 wickets, followed by pacers Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami with 36 apiece.
For New Zealand, skipper Kane Williamson has the most runs (817 at an average of 58.35 with three hundreds), with Tom Latham next in line with 680 runs at 43.85 with two hundreds. Among the bowlers, the pace trio of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Trent Boult lead the pack with 51, 36 and 34 scalps respectively.
The two teams are led by modern day greats. Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson would rank among the top four batsmen in the world today. Both men will be looking to become the first captain to win the World Test Championship.
What will be more interesting to see, however, is which team’s pace attack comes out on top. India have undergone a pace bowling renaissance in the last few years, and in Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have one of the most potent attacks in world cricket at present. New Zealand too have a strong pace attack suited perfectly for English conditions.
India last played test cricket in March, when they hosted England for a four-match series. Since then, apart from half an IPL in between, the players haven’t had much match practice. The team has been preparing for the final by playing intra-squad matches.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have just beaten England 1-0 on English soil, and will be feeling optimistic about their chances in the World Test Championship final.
India and New Zealand will be declared joint champions in the event of the match ending in a draw or a tie.
The World Test Championship final will be played from June 18 to 22. Action will commence each day at 3.30pm IST. The match will be aired live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Tamil and Star Sports 1 Kannada. Live action can also be streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
The Indian women’s cricket team will play its first ever day-night test match when they tour Australia in September this year. The pink ball test will be held at the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) stadium in Perth. The tour will also include three ODIs and three T20Is.
Cricket Australia has confirmed that the first ODI will be played at the North Sydney Oval on September 19, and the remaining two at the Junction Oval on September 22 and 24 respectively. The action will then move to Perth for a 4-day test from September 30 to October 3. The three T20Is will take place at the North Sydney Oval on October 7, 9 and 11.
Taking forward our commitment towards women’s cricket, I am extremely pleased to announce that Team India @BCCIwomen will play in their first-ever pink ball day-night Test later this year in Australia.
— Jay Shah (@JayShah) May 20, 2021
This will be only the second women’s test match to be played under lights, after Australia and England’s encounter at Sydney in 2017. This will also be India’s first test on Australian soil since 2006. It is interesting to note that India have never beaten Australia in a test match till date. The two sides have clashed nine times since 1977, with Australia winning four and the remaining five being drawn.
This is also the first instance since 2014 that Mithali Raj’s women will play two test matches in a calendar year. The team is also scheduled to play a test against England in Bristol on June 16.
The tour to Australia will be a daunting challenge for the women in blue. Australia are the current T20 world champions, having beaten India in the final of the T20 world cup last year. In ODI cricket, the Aussie women are on a 24-match unbeaten streak.
The country is in the middle of a raging pandemic that has affected everything and everyone in some way or the other. Reports coming in since yesterday show that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is no exception. As India struggles to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, the money-churning tournament was being held in bio-secure bubbles across six venues — Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. However the bubbles didn’t prove to be secure enough as positive cases have emerged between players and staff, compelling the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) to postpone the tournament indefinitely while it rethinks its course of action.
The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were the first to be hit when their players Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier were found to be positive, resulting in last night’s clash between KKR and the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Ahmedabad being rescheduled. Soon, reports emerged that five staff members in the Chennai Super Kings’ camp, including bowling coach Laxmipathy Balaji, had also tested positive. The Super Kings are currently stationed in Delhi, where they were due to play the Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday. It was later learnt that two members of the ground staff at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi have also been found positive. Delhi is the worst-affected city in the country at the moment.
The final straw was when Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Wriddhiman Saha and Delhi Capitals’ Amit Mishra also tested positive. With four teams affected, the BCCI was compelled to postpone the IPL with immediate effect earlier today.
UPDATE: The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season with immediate effect.
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 4, 2021
Earlier there were speculations that the BCCI was planning to resume the tournament in a few days by shifting all the remaining matches to Mumbai, a city that has managed to flatten the curve (so they say) in recent times. However it was soon confirmed that the IPL wouldn’t be taking place any time soon. The board is likely to look at another window later in the year to complete the tournament. As of now the players have been told that they can go home. The BCCI has said that it is doing everything in its powers to ensure safe and secure passage for all the participants.
Tonight’s IPL encounter between the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has been rescheduled after two players in the KKR camp were tested positive for COVID-19.
In its official statement, the IPL has stated that Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier were found positive in the third round of testing in the last four days. The remaining team members have all tested negative.
Both players have isolated themselves from the rest of the squad, while KKR have moved to a daily testing routine to identify positive cases and treat them at the earliest. Meanwhile the medical team is also identifying people who came into contact with the players 48 hours before they tested positive.
Today’s match between KKR and RCB has been postponed by the BCCI as per IPL Safety Guidelines after Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive for COVID.
— Royal Challengers Bangalore (@RCBTweets) May 3, 2021
Punjab Kings’ (PBKS) IPL 2021 campaign received a crushing blow after their captain and star batsman KL Rahul was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, potentially putting him out of action for a while.
On Saturday night, Rahul complained of severe abdomen pain and was hospitalised. He is now slated to undergo surgery.
— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) May 2, 2021
Rahul has been in fine form in the tournament and is the second-highest run-scorer of the season so far, with 331 runs at an average 66.20. The Punjab Kings currently stand sixth on the points table, and Rahul’s absence doesn’t make matters better. Barring Rahul, the PBKS batsmen have been rather inconsistent this season.
The PBKS management has said that they will ascertain Rahul’s availability for the rest of the season after the doctors make their diagnosis. However, a patient undergoing appendix surgery usually requires one to three weeks of recovery before he can resume normal activity, while strenuous activity would take longer. Thus there is a high chance that we may not see KL Rahul again this season.
In Rahul’s absence, fellow opener Mayank Agarwal was named captain for Punjab’s game against the Delhi Capitals last evening. Agarwal led from the front, powering his team to 166 in their 20 overs with a 58-ball 99. However his efforts weren’t enough, as Delhi chased down the total comfortably.