With the IPL 2023 season set to come to an end on May 28, the focus of cricket fans and experts is slowly and steadily shifting 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.
Ahead of the marquee game, former head coach Ravi Shastri predicted India’s XI, citing that it will be determined by two key factors – the fitness of the fast-bowlers and the London weather.
India have three spin options in their squad in the form of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Akshar Patel.
Shastri advised the team management to pick Ashwin as the specialist spinner and use Jadeja to bat at No.6 if the pitch at the Oval look like it will take some spin.
“If the track is hard and dry, you would want two spinners to play for sure,” Shastri said while speaking to Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review.
“I think it goes a lot with the weather in England. I believe it's sunny now at the moment, but you know, English weather, how it can change in the month of June.
“So there's a very good chance India will go with two spinners, two fast bowlers and an all-rounder. That will be the combination. And then there'll be five batsmen and the wicket-keeper, so six batsmen.
“So if all conditions stay normal at The Oval, then this would be my combination, but you've got to have the quality to be able to put those guys out in the park.”
Despite Jasprit Bumrah’s absence and the likes of Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat still recovering from injuries, India boast fast-bowling depth with Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj featuring in the squad alongside all-rounder Shardul Thakur.
“India did very well in England last time round because you had Bumrah, you had Shami, you had Shardul Thakur, and you had Mohammed Siraj,” Shastri recalled.
“So you had four fast bowlers. One being an all-rounder there, Shardul.
“That combination is a very good combination in England. Especially from India's point of view. It allows someone like Rohit Sharma to control the game far better. At times in England, you need to slow it down as well. And suddenly it can get overcast.
“You've got horses for courses, you've got all bases covered. But then if the quality is not good in your fast-bowling attack. If you think the guys are older, they are not as quick as they used to be, and the form is a little doubtful, then you play that second spinner because Ashwin is quality, as is Jadeja.”
Shastri highlighted the need of application while picking the top six to bat for India in the WTC final.
“The application is the key in English conditions, as opposed to Australia, India, you need to apply yourself everywhere,” he said.
With KL Rahul missing the game due to injury, the batting line-up is likely to be comprised of Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli.
Shreyas Iyer’s injury has also opened the doors for Ajinkya Rahane to make a return to No.5 spot.
“The way he's timed the ball, the way he's looking at T20 from a different perspective. He's not looking at the number of runs, he's looking at the number of balls he's playing as against that. What is the strike rate with those number of balls he's played, which is good and which augurs well,” Shastri said of Rahane.
“It just goes to show (what happens) when you go through the grind, you go back to domestic cricket.
“He's earned his place in that World Test Championship side. Now you'll have to see closer to the event what the final XI will be.”
Ravi Shastri's predicted India XI:
Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wk), Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj.
(With ICC Inputs)