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WTC 2021-23 Final: Shami, Siraj, Umesh, Jadeja certainties; toss-up between Ashwin and Shardul

ICC WTC 2021-23 Final: Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja certainties; toss-up between Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur. India's bowling combination ahead of WTC Final 2023.

WTC Final, India vs NZ, Day 5_ Mohammed Shami took 4-76 in first innings against New Zealand (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Mohammed Shami & Siraj would play a crucial role for India (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Just around a week after that royal three day extended final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, the focus has shifted towards the upcoming final of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 between Australia and India from June 7-11 at the Kennington Oval in London.


Australia finished WTC 2021-23 as table-toppers with a percentage points of 66.67 thanks to their 11 wins and five drawn results in 19 games while India, who were the runners-up in the maiden edition of WTC 2019-21, ended on number two position with 58.80 PCT shouldering on their 10 victories and three drawn results in 18 games.


From Lord’s victory to Ahmedabad run-fest: India earned back-to-back WTC finals ticket

India participated in a total of 18 Test matches in this edition during six series, out of which they won in four series, drew one of the series besides their one series defeat. There was change of captaincy too as Virat Kohli after leading the team in seven of those 18 games resigned. The current regular captain Rohit Sharma took over the reins from Kohli; Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul also stood as captain in the absence of Sharma.


India began the second edition of World Test Championship 2021-23 against England where they won two famous games at Lord’s and the Kennington Oval, before the hosts squared the series 2-2 thanks to their inspiring win in the rescheduled fifth Test at Edgbaston in 2022. After India’s 1-0 home series victory against New Zealand, they lost 2-1 in South Africa before they blew away visitors Sri Lanka with a comfortable 2-0 winning margin.


A 2-0 win over hosts Bangladesh offered India crucial 24 points in December 2022 before they won the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23 at home against Australia by a margin of 2-1. India secured their finals spot when they drew in Ahmedabad - the fourth and final Test of BGT 2022-23 - as Sri Lanka’s narrow loss against New Zealand helped India’s cause.



Let’s take a look at the best possible bowling combination for India for the WTC 2021-23 final.

Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23, India vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day 3_ Ravindra Jadeja, Ravindran Ashwin share e10 wickets in 2nd innings and bowl Aus out for 113 _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Jadeja, Ashwin form a very strong spinning duo (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Ashwin & Jadeja lead the wicket-takers chart for India in WTC 2021-23

While Australia have almost settled their playing eleven, there is plenty of speculation around the make-up of India’s team and especially their bowling combination.


In India’s last home assignment against the same opponent, Ravichandran Ashwin (25 wickets) and Ravindra Jadeja (22 wickets) were in fabulous touch as they helped the hosts register a 2-1 triumph. But they failed to have their usual impact when featuring in India’s team that lost the inaugural WTC 2019-21 final to New Zealand, and it remains to be seen whether the pair will be given the same opportunity again this time around or selectors opt for a more pace oriented line-up.


Experienced seamers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj are almost certain to share the new ball for Rohit Sharma’s team, while Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat are also in contention alongside the recalled all-rounder, Shardul Thakur.



Let’s take a look at how these bowlers have performed in WTC 2021-’23:

Player

Mat

Wkts

Ave

SR

BBI

BBM

4W/5W

10W

R Ashwin

13

61

19.67

47.59

6/91

8/42

05/02

00

R Jadeja

12

43

23.23

57.88

7/42

7/42

03/03

01

M Shami

12

41

27.12

49.31

5/44

5/44

02/01

00

M Siraj

13

31

32.86

55.61

4/32

4/32

03/00

00

A Patel

09

23

24.86

64.86

5/62

5/62

01/01

00

S Thakur

06

20

24.80

41.95

7/61

7/61

00/01

00

U Yadav

08

20

30.55

55.90

4/25

4/25

01/00

00

Ind vs NZ - 1st Test, Day 3, Kanpur - Axar Patel's fifer, Ashwin's 3-fer reduce New Zealand to 296; India 63 ahead (©BCCI)
Axar proves his worth with both bat and ball in BGT 2022-23 (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Shami & Siraj have been brilliant too

Shami and Siraj have been in some incredible form as the former won the purple cap of IPL 2023 thanks to his 28 wickets in 17 games at an average of 18.36 and economy of 8.03 with best figures of 4/11. Siraj recorded 19 wickets in 14 games at an average of 19.79 and economy of 7.52 with best match returns of 4/21.


Jadeja almost a certainty

Ravindra Jadeja’s tremendous batting abilities in recent Tests has almost cemented his place in the Indian side for the upcoming WTC final. Jadeja who nailed 135 runs in four games of the last Border-Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) 2023, has collected 673 runs in 12 -games at an average of 37.38 and strike rate of 48.10 shouldering on his two centuries and three fifties including his best knock of unbeaten 175 runs in the WTC 2021-23 cycle.


“We have been debating that,” Australia’s assistant coach Daniel Vettori spoke with the local media prior to Australia’s training session at Kent County Cricket Ground. “I think Jadeja will play because of the batting he brings to the table and how successful he has been at that No.6 position.”


“Then the question will be around that fourth seamer and the all-rounder in Thakur and Ashwin, but they are (both) pretty good choices,” Vettori admitted.



Toss-up between Thakur and Ashwin depending on weather conditions & Oval pitch

The toss-up will be between Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur. But with four left-handers in the top seven of Australia’s batting order, Ashwin will have a huge role to play. With the sun being out for an ample time, the pitches are expected to help the spinners little bit. Quite surprisingly, this WTC final will be the first-ever Oval Test to be played in June. Of the 104 Tests this ground has hosted, the vast majority have been occurred in August and September, with only eight that began in July.


Ashwin has been phenomenal against Australia with his 114 Test wickets in 22 games at an average of 28.37 and strike rate of 62.83 including his seven five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul. But if India look to power their batting order little bit, then they could add Shardul Thakur in the side who in that 2021 Oval Test saved India with his 57 and 60-run knocks.


Indications are that probably Umesh Yadav is the third seamer that the opponents are expecting. The ‘Vidarbha Express’ has showed some raw pace in the past and has been bowling well with the old ball using his reverse swing skills. With the weather being dry for the last week in London, the pitches have dried up a little and when a partnership starts to build up, the extra pace is always beneficial to make vital inroads.


In one Test Umesh has played in Kennington Oval back in 2021, he grabbed six wickets and used his reverse swing skills to ask questions to the batters.


Jaydev Unadkat and Axar Patel, unless a late injury concern occurs, are expected to warm the benches.


“I’m concentrating on the WTC final and so Mohammed Shami, Siraj and Shardul Thakur are probably on my mind first,” Warner’s comments perhaps have indicated that they are perhaps planning to see three pacers along with Jadeja and Ashwin. But in all likelihood, the extra pace of Umesh Yadav is going to be really helpful for the Indian team. Now it will be interesting to see in what direction the Indian team goes, but surely the weather on the first day of the final will have a huge say on the team selection.


The final of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 will be played between Australia and India from June 7 at the Kennington Oval in London.


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