Ravi Shastri mooted the idea of a best-of-three format for the World Test Championship final in the future even while acknowledging that such an arrangement may not be feasible in the packed modern-day international calendar. The India head coach’s opinion is predicated on the fact that a Test series allows for ebbs and flows and that the Championship final in the long format was a culmination of a two-year cycle that is now reduced to a one-match shoot-out.
“I think ideally, in the long run, if they want to persist with this Test championship, a best of three final would be ideal,” Shastri said. “A three-match series as a culmination of two-and-a-half years around the globe… Ideally going forward, best of three would be ideal, but we’ve got to finish it as quickly as possible because of the FTP that will start all over again so one off is a one off and the guys have earned their stripes.”
The head coach, who guided India to a first-place finish over the two-year league phase of the championship, echoed opinions of several of his players, including Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and R. Ashwin, that likened this one-off Test to a World Cup final.
“See it is the first time that you have the World Test Championship final. When you look at that and the magnitude of the game that’s going to be played, I think this is the biggest, if not the biggest ever,” he said. “It is the toughest form of the game. It is a format that tests you, it doesn’t happen over three days or three months, it’s happened over two years – where teams have played each other around the world and earned their stripes to play the final. So it is one heck of an event.”
Virat Kohli chimed in with a similar opinion, stating the mere qualification to the final was a badge of honour for a consistent five-year run in the format. “I think this holds a lot of value, especially this being the first of its kind in the toughest format, as Ravi bhai mentioned. All of us take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket and the way we’ve progressed as a side is an example of what Test cricket means to us. So for all of us as a unit, those who have been part of the Test side for many years, this is like the accumulation of all the hard work of not just the duration of the Test championship but the last 5-6 years since we started really coming up the ranks and building as a side and just very happy to play in the final.”
The Indian captain was also not a subscriber of the theory that New Zealand’s two Tests against England in the build-up to the marquee final in Southampton gave them the edge in the context. He also quashed suggestions that the conditions in England suited his opposition and their bowlers more than his own. “Conditions are as potent for New Zealand as they are for us. Australian conditions should have favoured Australia but we beat them twice in two series. So it’s how you look at the situation,” he said.
“In the past, we’ve landed in places even three days prior even on a proper schedule and have had a hell of a series and hell of competitions. I think it is all in the head. It is how you look at the situation currently. It is not the first time we’re playing in England. We all know what the conditions are like and even if you’re used to the conditions, if you don’t enter the field in the right frame of mind, you’re going to nick that first ball or you’re going to find it tough to pick wickets.
“I think the hunger and desire to be there and play the final… we don’t have any issues even with four practice sessions heading into the game because we’re absolutely sure what we can do as a team and we’ve all played in England before this as well.
“If you want us to board the flight from here feeling like New Zealand has got the edge, then there is no point taking that flight. We are going to board that flight knowing that we are on equal terms, and whichever team performs well session by session, hour by hour will win that championship and we have no doubts on that.”