India Steam Ahead

The front runners to make the 2021 World Test Championship final

India - The front runners to make the 2021 World Test Championship final

India clean sweep South Africa series 3-0 with massive win in the third Test in Ranchi on 22 October 2019. (© PTI Photo)

Just three months into the World Test Championship, India now have more points than all other teams combined in the tournament.

After beating the West Indies 2-0 away, India inflicted the worst series defeat for South Africa since their return to international cricket in 1992. The 3-0 drubbing was India’s 11th consecutive series win at home. It wasn’t on spinning “doctored” tracks, but a performance that displayed their capacity to win overseas.

With four players – Kohli, Pujara, Rahane and Rohit – ranked among the top 10 Test batsmen and four – Bumrah, Ashwin, Jadeja and Shami – in the top 15 bowlers, India look unstoppable at the moment. As of now, India’s time as the world’s No. 1 ranked Test side stands at 36 months and counting. Such is their dominance, a group of writers across the globe attached to ESPNcricinfo went into the extent of selecting a Rest of the World (Fantasy) XI to take on India at home!

After one home and away series apiece, India have raked in the maximum 240 points on offer. They are expected to add a further 120 after the forthcoming two-match series against Bangladesh. India’s last home opponent would be England, whom they beat 4-0 during their last tour. Though their remaining away series are against two stronger sides – New Zealand and Australia – India possess a team that is capable of competing anywhere in the world.

Though currently ranked No. 5 in Tests, Australia look the best bet to stall the Indian juggernaut. The return of Smith and Warner have boosted their batting. They too have a potent bowling attack with the pace of Starc, Cummins, Pattinson and Hazlewood, ably supported by Lyon’s off-spin. Away from home, they drew against England 2-2. Next will be South Africa, who despite their better ranking, without de Villiers, Steyn and Amla, shouldn’t pose too many headaches for Australia. Lastly, Bangladesh, which should be their easiest.

Australia’s home series will be against Pakistan, New Zealand and India. Stronger Pakistan sides have never won a series in Australia before, and it won’t be a surprise if Australia beat them 2-0. Despite not winning an away series against Australia in this decade, New Zealand always have given Australia a fright. Australia, nevertheless, are maybe expecting at least a 2-1 result in their favour. Then the India series, which should be a cracker with the hosts expected to scrape through.

Due to commercial reasons, the second-ranked New Zealand, who are also second in the Test Championship points table, would only play 14 matches in the championship. Their first home series would be against India, then West Indies and Pakistan that they are expected to win. Having already drawn against Sri Lanka in their first away series, the Kiwis have a tough away assignment in Australia and a relatively easy one in Bangladesh.

England have the toughest away series as they play South Africa, Sri Lanka and India. They have had a good record in South Africa and considering South Africa’s current woes, England are expected to win. Sri Lanka could be a banana skin for England as it was in the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Nevertheless, their remaining home series against the West Indies and Pakistan may not be that difficult to come out as winners by a distance.

It’s no secret that the common thread between the strong nations is a robust First-class competition, which ensures a regular supply of quality players, rather than depending on a couple of star performers.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will sporadically spark to create the odd upset, in line with their endlessly fascinating cricketing story.

ICC World Test Championship Table (22 October 2019)

 

A revised version of this article appeared on the December 2019 issue of the LIVING magazine.

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