- Preparations are in full swing in both camps for the ICC World Test Championship final at The Oval from 7 June
- Match reports, images, videos of media conferences as well as their transcripts and translations will be available on the ICC Online Media Zone for free editorial use as per T and Cs, giving credit @ICC
The WTC Final begins on Wednesday 7 June, with both teams having spent the past fortnight reacquainting themselves with the particular challenges of playing cricket early in an English summer.
India succumbed to New Zealand in the 2021 edition of the WTC Final in such conditions, playing under heavy cloud cover for much of the Test in Southampton. But the forecast and pitch conditions appear to be far more favourable this time around, with India captain Rohit Sharma set to wait until the toss to confirm the exact make-up of his playing XI.
“We are quite aware of what the conditions are, what is going to happen in the next five days,” Sharma said in his media conference on Tuesday at the Oval.
“The weather forecast looks all right. But in terms of the combination, I think it's better that we wait till tomorrow. That's a common answer, I think.
“Whoever uses the conditions really well, probably will win the game. As simple as that.”
Both teams possess plenty of quality in their bowling attacks, with Australia set to use Scott Boland alongside Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in the absence of the injured Josh Hazlewood.
And Australia captain Cummins is also well aware of the threat that India will pose with the ball this week, particularly given that he and so many of the Australian side have only just finished playing alongside their Indian opponents in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL).
“I think through the IPL we know a lot of the guys now as well, which always kind of has some healthy battles,” Cummins said.
“I think in a lot of ways we play a similar style. Some quick bowlers, the batters want to get out there and take the game on, and there's been really close battles over the last few years, so it's going to be a bit different playing in a neutral venue but it should be good fun.”
Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj will spearhead the Indian bowling attack in the absence of the injured Jasprit Bumrah, with a decision yet to be made on whether both spinners, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, will play.
And Steve Smith, who comes into this match ranked at number three in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Batting Rankings, is wary of the threat that the Indian bowlers will pose.
“Yeah, I think they've got a good mix of quality seam bowlers,” Smith said. “Shami and Siraj are probably their two main guys who have really good skills and I think the Duke ball suit them nicely.
“And then obviously there are their spinners as well, who bowl really well in all conditions. So I think they're a good attack and we're going to have to play well against them this week.”
While India have plenty of quality in their squad, ICC pundit and former Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes that the Aussies have a slight edge in the English conditions.
“I think Australia are going to be a lot more settled and then when you think about conditions here as well, these early June conditions are probably more like Australian conditions than they are Indian,” Ponting said.
“Saying that, we all know how well India played in Australia last time they were there, but I just think on the back of their work that they’ve done, Australia start narrow favourites.”
This week’s game represents the finale of two years of hard-fought Test cricket in the World Test Championship cycle, with the world’s top-two ranked sides both making it through to this showpiece event.
“It's been two years of hard work to get here, quite a few ups and downs along the way,” India coach Rahul Dravid said. “It's something that you start the cycle aspiring to be in the top two teams so that you can get an opportunity to play this game.
“We’re looking forward to it and hoping for a good game of cricket.”
Play is scheduled to start at 10:30 local time in London on Wednesday, with Monday scheduled as a reserve day should it be required.