Dubai: India and Australia will battle for supremacy in the World Test Championship final, which begins at The Oval on Wednesday (June 7). The high-voltage clash pits the top two-ranked Test teams of similar strength in star value, skills and strategies. English conditions produce a good contest between the ball and the bat, which adds spice to the five-day final.
Despite the hype surrounding the final, two players, Shubman Gill and David Warner, will come into focus. Openers Gill and Warner are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but their role is similar as it is vital in ensuring a good start for their teams. While young Gill is at the early part of his career, having played 15 Tests, the Australian left-hander is walking into the sunset after announcing his retirement from Tests early next year, with the Sydney Test against Pakistan as his last outing.
Their form also is vastly dissimilar. Gill is in the form of his life, scoring runs across all formats, and has gone from strength to strength since the start of the year. The significant transformation results from the minor adjustments he made to his technique, and his confidence has grown over the past few months. The 23-year-old Indian has been successful against a varied attack, and his excellent technique should allow him to thrive in difficult English conditions, where the ball swings and seams through the day.
The Australians are known to target their main opponent with mind games. Former Australian skipper Greg Chappell’s recent comments on the technical deficiencies in Gill’s game prove his wicket is key for Australia.
However, former Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas told Gulf News in a recent chat show during the Indian Premier League Season 16 that, on current form, it will be difficult to dismiss the Indian opener early.
Gill is the next Kohli
“He is at the peak of his prowess now. When it comes to T20, it is difficult to talk about the bowling areas, but there are so many ways, as a bowler, you can get him out. However, the way he bats now, no bowler will be able to get him out early,” added the 49-year-old pacer, who has won battles against legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
Gill has been scoring centuries and double-centuries across all formats, including a 128 against Australia in his last Test at Ahmedabad. Though the conditions and the attack will differ at The Oval, Gill has the technique to play with the straight bat. “Gill is the next Virat Kohli of Indian cricket,” Vaas added.
While Gill’s form is welcome, India has good batters in skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, whose return should lend stability down the order. The absence of injured Rishabh Pant has left a big gap, which neither KS Bharat nor Ishan Kishan can fill.
Ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah’s injury is a blow to India’s bowling. Mohammed Shami has become India’s ace bowler after minor alterations to his line and length, bowling slightly up to the batters. The late movement makes Shami a more dangerous bowler in England.
Veteran Australian opener Warner has single-handedly won matches for Australia. However, his abilities are on the wane. The 36-year-old, who has 8,158 runs at an average of 45.57, including 25 hundreds in 103 Tests, has just scored one century in the past 32 innings and has averaged under 10 during the last Ashes series.
The Australian left-hander had a decent run in the Indian Premier League Season 16, but was far from his best. His dominance was conspicuously absent during the Delhi Capitals’ dismal show.
Warner’s opening partner Usman Khawaja is in good form, scoring a century in the last Test against India at Ahmedabad. Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, currently the top-ranked Test batter, and Cameron Green should form the backbone of Australian batting.
With rains predicted during the last two days, the Indian team management will have a dilemma: to play four seamers and a spinner or three pacers and two spinners. Whatever the combination, all eyes will be on Warner and Gill.