Southampton [UK], June 16 (ANI): India might be second on the list in the latest ICC rankings for Test teams, but it doesn't bear testimony to what the team has achieved under Virat Kohli in the last two years. And going into the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) against top-ranked New Zealand from Friday, Kohli's boys will definitely fancy their chances of winning the inaugural edition of the championship at the Ageas Bowl.
The momentum lies with the Kiwis as they beat England 1-0 in the just concluded Test series and the same catapulted them to the top of the rankings. But then, cricket isn't played on paper and all these things will take a backseat when Kohli and Kane Williamson head out for the toss on Friday.
This Indian team under Kohli has shown they believe in playing to win and has time and again snatched victories from the jaws of defeat. Not to forget the depth in the bench which was visible on the tour of Australia at the start of the year.
India was without the likes of skipper Virat Kohli, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, and pacer Jasprit Bumrah when the team defeated Australia by three wickets against all odds in the final Test at The Gabba to take the series 2-1.
India will be riding on the recent performances in the longest format which also saw them clinching a series win against England after being one down in the Test series.
After cricket resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic in December 2020, India has won five out eight Tests with the recent win coming against England in which the hosts defeated the Joe Root-led side by an innings and 25 runs.
But then, the only blip in an otherwise perfect report card is the series loss to the Kiwis in New Zealand in 2020. While they lost the first Test by 10 wickets, they lost the second one by seven wickets.
On the other hand, New Zealand has won five out of the six Tests since December 2020 with the recent victory coming against England on Sunday.
New Zealand who weren't in contention to play the Test Championship final, first sniffed their chance when the ICC in November, last year, amended the WTC points system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand, who had half of the points India had, suddenly got a reprieve when the percentage points system was introduced. Since then New Zealand at home defeated West Indies and Pakistan to move to the top and qualified for the summit clash when Australia cancelled their tour to South Africa in February 2021.
Some might argue that the road towards the WTC final was easy for New Zealand but that doesn't deny the fact that the Kiwis didn't just defeat West Indies and Pakistan, but left them gasping for breath by clinching games without even going into the second innings.
Same was the case with India when the Kohli-led side toured New Zealand before the pandemic. India's highest score in the Test series was 242. The hosts New Zealand defeated India in back-to-back Tests as part of the current WTC cycle at the beginning of 2020.
Who has the edge over whom certainly remains the favourite topic of cricket pundits, but one thing is for sure that New Zealand would like to heal all wounds of losing in the final in England in 2019 while for Kohli it is a legacy that awaits.
The five-day game will allow India skipper Kohli multiple opportunities to etch his name in the annals of glorious history. The Indian captain hasn't scored a century in Tests since 2019 and Kohli will be looking to take the centre stage to lead the charge as India get ready to lock horns with New Zealand in the ultimate clash.
India and New Zealand have met each other 59 times in the longest format of the game. While India has won 21 of those, the Kiwis have won just 12 matches.
However, the recent trend seems to be evenly poised. In the last seven games, India and New Zealand have won three each and drawn one. So it will be fair enough to say the contest is evenly poised and whoever draws first blood might just take the Test mace home. (ANI)