WTC Final 2021

The World Test Championship - Giving Test Cricket the credit it deserves

Jun. 17, 2021

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Ajai Kannan

In a world that is becoming increasingly fast, the pleasure of indulging in slow, late-rewarding leisure activities are being quickly forgotten. Our immense craving for thrill & instant gratification has entirely ruined the satisfaction lying in mere survival and existence. In the world of cricket, this yearning for thrill and the disinterest for grit has led to the creation of shorter versions of the game, such as the T20, the T10 and the Hundred. These new formats, of course, add a lot of thrill to the game, but they render the game one-dimensional. The front foot defence is no longer sexy — a ball that does not get hit outside the park is now a delivery wasted; Yorkers and slow balls are the norms of the day thanks to the innings that end even before the ball starts reversing. Cricket no longer projects itself as the sport it once used to, and for those like me who are addicted to nostalgia, it’s heart-rending. Understanding and appreciating test cricket can be difficult, especially when you are new to cricket, or are stepping into cricket after years of following other sports like Football. The idea of players toiling five full days under the sun to play a game that may even end without a result would of course seem ridiculous to newbies. No wonder that barring the top 10 cricketing nations, the rest of the world looks at the game with a sense of amazement and ridicule. A good test match is perhaps one of the most phenomenal spectacles one can get to witness in sport. It unfurls before us like a great story, starting slowly but steadily and with its ebbs and flows. Only as the condition of the pitch begins to deteriorate, the match unmasks to reveal its true nature. From then on, it becomes a tale of strength, grit and determination. In its pure form, the game is meant to be devoid of any external constraints, and it is possible to walk off without having to be labelled a winner or a loser. There have been matches where draws mattered more than wins or losses. With the series at stake, you’re walking in to open your team’s innings on the first session of the fourth day to chase a mammoth 600. You are convinced that a win, as much as it seems lucrative, is clearly out of reach. You decide to take it upon yourself, grind the balls down, last as much longer on the crease as possible and earn your team a well-deserved draw. Your opponent team’s captain, on the other hand, is instructing his pace stalwart to direct his most lethal deliveries at you. The pitch, for its part, is crumbling, and the bounce has become too uneven to predict. After churning out over 100 overs, on the final session of the fifth day, the opponent captain walks towards you and offers to shake hands. He is finally offering you a draw as he thinks his players have had it enough and gives up his chance at victory, signalling that dismissing your team is next to impossible. You walk off the field to the crowd’s roar, with a slight sense of satisfaction, knowing that you’ve saved your nation from the cusp of a sour defeat. No other sport can give you that feel — and even in real life, nobody appreciates the art of survival enough! R Ashwin & H Vihari walking off the field to standing ovation after successfully drawing a Test against Australia It is indeed a matter of shame that such a legendary format did not have a set way to identify and proclaim a team as the World Champions for the past 144 years. To put an end to the misery, the ICC came up with the idea of the World Test Championship. After several failed starts, the WTC cycle officially kickstarted in 2019, with the Ashes being the first bilateral tournament played as a part of the WTC. After two years of scheduled matches, where the nine participating nations battled, India and New Zealand eventually qualified for the finals. The Ball to be used in the ICC WTC Final on June 18, 2021 Within five days from when Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will walk down for the toss of the WTC Final at the Hampshire Bowl, the world would have crowned its First-ever World Test Champion, a title that was deprived of its rightful existence for over 140 years. The WTC was by no means a perfectly organised tournament. Veterans promptly pointed out their fingers at the flaws in the grading and the scheduling systems. Everything said, the WTC was the first step in the right direction, and it is only supposed to get better in the future. In January this year, Ravi Ashwin, in a post-match interview, proclaimed that lifting the Border Gavaskar Trophy felt a better achievement than India’s ICC World Cup victory of 2011. Setting prejudices aside, the WTC Final could be the only chance at lifting a World Cup ever for India’s red-ball specialists Ishant Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari. And for a young New Zealand team who had to concede the World Cup by the barest of margins in the Final of 2019, the WTC final is a second chance to rise to the glory they deserve. We shall get to know which team outshines the other in less than a week.