With the IPL 2023 season set to come to an end on May 28, the focus of cricket fans and experts will now shift towards the World Test Championship (WTC) final.
India and Australia are due to lock horns with each other in the WTC final at the Oval in London from June 7 to 11.
Questions have been raised over India’s preparation for the WTC final as most of the players are featuring in the ongoing IPL. Notably, India have 13 players in their WTC final squad taking part in the IPL whereas Australia have only four.
Ahead of the all-important final, former India head coach Ravi Shastri named his combined XI from both sides, in which he picked only four Indians.
While weighing out his captaincy options, Shastri opted to go with Rohit Sharma instead of Pat Cummins.
"I would give the captaincy to Rohit because he's much more experienced than Pat," Shastri said in a recent episode of the ICC Review.
"He's been around and he's captained sides for a long time. If Steve Smith was captain of Australia, then maybe it's a different story, but since it's Pat Cummins and Rohit Sharma, Rohit wins it."
"Plus, you know, as a captain, you're a certainty in the XI so he opens the batting."
Shastri was stuck in a dilemma while picking Rohit Sharma’s opening partner. The Australian duo of David Warner and Usman Khawaja and India's emerging star Shubman Gill are all in the mix.
"It's a tight one between Usman Khawaja and Shubman Gill," Shastri admitted. "Shubman is the rising young star and he's a terrific player, but Usman Khawaja, just by current form and the number of runs he's got over the last couple of years, I think he gets in there."
Shastri didn’t find any difficulty in filling up the No.3, No.4 and No.5 slots.
"Number three is a no-brainer as Marnus (Labuschagne) has been outstanding in Test match cricket. He averages close to 60, so he gets in there straight away," Shastri said. "Kohli at four for just what he's done over the years and Smith at five for what he's done over the years and the kind of quality they bring to the table."
Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja earned the spot to bat at No.6 in Shastri’s combined team.
"At No.6, I get in Jadeja, because I believe he is one of the best all-rounders in the world," he opined.
Australia’s Alex Carey was the designated wicketkeeper ahead of India's KS Bharat. Shastri admitted that he found it hard to leave out veteran India spinner R Ashwin and opt for Nathan Lyon as the premier spinner in his XI.
"The reason why I picked Nathan Lyon ahead of Ashwin is because of Nathan's overseas record," Shastri said.
"Not just in Australia, but outside Australia and (Lyon is) probably stronger to bowl those overs in England if needed. So he comes in with Jadeja as the second spinner, with Jadeja more the all-rounder and Lyon the spinner."
Shastri said the decisions on the pace attack was relatively easy to make, with experienced left-armer Mitchell Starc providing the variety alongside a pair of in-form right-armers.
"(Pat) Cummins, of course, for me, he's a top-class operator and Mohammad Shami, he's like vintage and he's just getting better and better as we're seeing in this IPL. And stronger. So he comes in there," Shastri noted.
"And then it was a tough one between (Josh) Hazelwood, Starc and Cameron Green also there. But I preferred Jadeja because you get a better balance with two spinners, three fast bowlers, out and out fast bowlers and I would take Starc (to complement them) because of pace and variety being the left-armer,” he added.
“It's a hard choice (to settle on final XI) because Ashwin's world-class, you've got Hazelwood world-class there and you've got (Cheteshwar) Pujara there who could be threatening. So it's not easy," he concluded.
Ravi Shastri’s combined India-Australia XI for WTC final: Rohit Sharma (c), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Ravindra Jadeja, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mohammad Shami