As the gladiators India and New Zealand prepare for battle at the Rose Bowl from Friday, there is buzz about the Word Test Championship (WTC) final, even though England are not participating.
Many former cricketers are plumping for one or the other in this epic contest. Given that England were thrashed by the Black Caps only the other day, and India didn’t do very well when they went to New Zealand early last year, former English players are gravitating towards the high flying Kiwis.
“I fancy New Zealand. I know I’m going to get absolute pelters on social media for going against India. But the way New Zealand played in the two Tests against England, I think they’re going to do it. They are a high-class cricket team — I like every aspect of their game. If you analyse Test cricket, generally it is the side that covers all the bases the longest which wins, and New Zealand are able to do that because they have a very skilful bowling attack,” said ex-England captain Michael Vaughan.
While that may sound good to go, India had smashed England to smithereens at home despite losing the first Test. And this came back-to-back after an unbelievable tour of Australia where India played out of their skins, virtually with a second XI and won the series.
Another former England skipper, Alastair Cook, said: “New Zealand are going to win. They’re two matches further into match-sharpness after the series win against England — they’re used to playing under pressure and in English conditions.”
The money, according to the English cricketers, is on the Kiwis but India have a highly professional outfit with immense self belief and this ‘can do’ attitude has won them matches despite all odds.
The team is replete with match-winners and is extremely balanced with a fast bowling attack suited for all conditions, a comprehensive batting line-up with skilful players and two world-class spinners.
Former England spinner Phil Tufnell took the contra position when he backed India, saying: “There will be two fantastic teams on show with some world-class cricketers. New Zealand have had very good preparation, but the powerhouse that is India will win because they’ve got a better spin bowler in Ravichandran Ashwin, and are slightly better in the batting department. It’s going to go down to the wire. I’ve got to go for India, but it will be tight.”
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)