The first World Test Championship final will see India take on New Zealand in Southampton from June 18.
Selection debates are likely heating up in both camps right about now, but we have a cruncher on our hands in picking the combined XI from two sides that have been ridiculously good in the longest format for the last couple of years. Here’s what we think is the best combined XI that can be put up.
*Stats mentioned are from the WTC
Wisden’s India-New Zealand combined Test XI – the selections
Rohit Sharma: Matches – 11, Runs – 1030, Average – 64.37, 100s – 4, HS – 212
Tom Latham: Matches – 11, Runs – 680, Average – 40.00, 100s – 1, HS – 154
Question marks revolve around the batting ability of these openers away from their respective homes. Latham averages 47.02 at home, but 37.7 away from home. With Rohit, there’s a huge chasm between his averages home and away (79.5 at home to 27.0 away). But, compared to the other options in the side, these two make for a good opening pair with recent form and big runs behind them.
Cheteshwar Pujara: Matches – 11, Runs – 818, Average – 29.2, 50s- 9, HS – 81
Virat Kohli: Matches – 14, Runs – 877, Average – 43.85, 100s – 2, HS – 254*
Kane Williamson: Matches – 9, Runs – 817, Average – 58.35, 100s – 3, HS – 251
There are three players outside these three who have genuine stakes to a middle-order slot in this combined XI: Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor and Ajinkya Rahane. However, Pujara gives stability to the side at No.3 with Kohli and Williamson adding the much-needed flair behind a pretty good top-order.
Kohli’s frequency of making big scores has declined – his last international hundred came in 2019 – but it is likely just an extended rough patch with his WTC average still in the mid-40s. He also put together two exceptional half-centuries in the home series against England under difficult circumstances.
Williamson has been on a dream run with two double tons since the start of 2020 in Test cricket and walks into this XI.
Rishabh Pant: Matches – 11, Runs – 662, Average – 41.37, 100s – 1, HS – 101, Catches – 35, Stumpings – 5
BJ Watling’s final bow will be the World Test Championship final, but he unfortunately just misses out on this combined XI, only by a whisker, though. Rishabh Pant has produced plenty of match-winning contributions in the last few months in Test cricket and also made a hundred in England in 2018 when he last toured the country. Watling, whose quality is more on the side of holding an innings together, is a valuable asset no doubt, but this team needs someone who could throw caution to the wind and go hard with lot of quality batters all around him.
Ravindra Jadeja: Matches – 10, Runs – 469, Average – 58.62, Wickets – 28, Bowl Average – 28.67
Given the luxury in the fast bowling cupboard, it’s best to have a holding spinner who can also be a quality batting option. Jadeja, aside from averaging 55 with the bat in the last three years, also has a bowling average of 26, making him a better bet than Ravichandran Ashwin in this combined XI.
Jasprit Bumrah: Matches – 9, Wickets – 34, Bowl Average – 22.41, SR – 48.7, 5w-hauls – 5
Trent Boult: Matches – 9, Wickets – 34, Bowl Average – 29.29, SR – 59.0, 5w-hauls – 0
Tim Southee: Matches – 10, Wickets – 51, Bowl Average – 20.66, SR – 45.9, 5w-hauls – 3
Neil Wagner: Matches – 7, Wickets – 32, Bowl Average – 22.50, SR – 52.9, 5w-hauls – 0
New Zealand could easily put up a five-man pace attack for the WTC final and India’s quicks have recorded the best combined bowling average in Test cricket in the last three years. It’s safe to say our task is no easy one in this department.
Jasprit Bumrah, who has five five-wicket hauls in Test cricket already, is the automatic pick in the fast bowling department. Trent Boult and Tim Southee are arguably the best new ball pair going around in Test cricket and have pretty handy numbers in the last three years in the format.
While Ishant Sharma’s average of 19.72 in Tests since the beginning of 2018 should demand selection, he is edged out by Southee – thus shortening the tail, even if only by a bit – and Wagner, for the variety he brings to this attack with his hard lengths and ability to bowl long spells. Kyle Jamieson has a mind-blowing average in the WTC, but has played a little too little (and only at home) compared to the rest to edge any of them out. That said, going with Bumrah and any other three quicks from the two teams would not dent the quality of this XI.
Wisden’s India-New Zealand combined Test XI – the line-up
1. Rohit Sharma
2. Tom Latham
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
4. Virat Kohli
5. Kane Williamson
6. Rishabh Pant (WK)
7. Ravindra Jadeja
8. Neil Wagner
9. Tim Southee
10. Trent Boult
11. Jasprit Bumrah
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