Deciding the best Test side in the world over one game can prove to be tricky. Virat Kohli had called for a minimum of three Tests to decide the fate of the World Test Championship after losing the inaugural edition to New Zealand in 2021.
The former India captain didn’t wish the final to be decided by “pressure applied over two days of good cricket”. What Kohli had left unsaid was that the Indians have generally struggled to get used to the conditions in the first Test of an overseas series.
In Australia, they had lost the opener before bouncing back to win two of the remaining three in 2020-2021. In Birmingham last July, India lost to England in the lone remaining Test of an unfinished series.
A similar situation awaits them at The Oval against Australia in the WTC final beginning on Wednesday. Overcast conditions on Tuesday and more than normal grass covering on the wicket have also left the team management confused.
Two spinners or four seamers is the question that has dominated the team meetings with Ravichandran Ashwin’s place not yet certain.
Kohli and then coach Ravi Shastri had blundered playing two spinners in cold and blustery Southampton two years ago. The current think-tank has taken a more cautious approach, preferring to wait till Wednesday morning before taking a call.
The Oval has been known to assist spinners as well as being conducive to reverse swing but never has a Test match been played here in early June.
“I’m not saying that Ashwin is not going to play,” Rohit said at a media conference on Tuesday. “We’ll wait until tomorrow (Wednesday) because one thing I have seen here, the pitch actually changes quite a bit day to day. Today it’s looking this way, tomorrow it might be slightly different, who knows?”
Rohit felt it was a seamers’ wicket with some bounce. “...It looks a bit of help for the seamers definitely. With the overhead conditions as well, it’s going to assist seamers a fair bit,” he said.
If India decide to play four pacers — Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur/Jaydev Unadkat — Ravindra Jadeja will be the lone spinner with Ishan Kishan likely to make his debut. But if both Ashwin and Jadeja play, KS Bharat could be preferred.
Australia are playing four pacers and a lone spinner.
■ Australia vs India, WTC Final Day I, 3pm, live on Star Sports Network