CricTracker Experts pick the playing XIs of India and New Zealand for WTC Final

CricTracker Experts pick the playing XIs of India and New Zealand for WTC Final

Should India go in with two spinners or one? Will New Zealand go in with an all-out pace attack? Who should feature in the playing XI of both these sides in this monumental encounter?

As India and New Zealand get ready to take the field for the summit clash of the World Test Championship (WTC), the one vital question that will occupy the minds of the fans is who will comprise the playing XIs of both sides. We asked our experts to come up with who they think should take the field for both sides in this blockbuster clash. So, here is what our experts at CricTracker have come up with.

Aditya Kukalyekar, Editor at CricTracker

India playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

Now that India has announced the 15-man squad, the top six batsmen – Rohit, Gill, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, and Pant – pick themselves. There has been a debate if Mohammed Siraj should play ahead of Ishant Sharma. Although Siraj has done considerably well, the team shouldn’t make the mistake of benching Ishant who brings a lot of experience to the table and can trouble left-handers especially.

Now comes a big question. Whether India should play two spinners? Yes. They should go with both Ashwin and Jadeja. Jadeja’s batting has improved leaps and bounds while Ashwin will play a crucial role. Moreover, if the weather stays dry, the duo can bowl in tandem and trouble New Zealand batsmen. In this case, Vihari would be unlucky to have been left out.

New Zealand Playing XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel

New Zealand’s playing XI has been more or less sorted. The majority of the players who played the first Test against England will take the field. Devon Conway has sealed his place with the player of the series performance in his debut outings in the format. The only bone of contention for them would be to go with Colin de Grandhomme or Ajaz Patel.

The Kiwis already have three-four top-class fast bowlers for them and they will need a spinner in Ajaz Patel who can control the game from one end. England suffered big time for not playing a spinner in two Tests in the recent series. However, this will leave them vulnerable down the order with Jamieson batting at seven but their top six has got to take the responsibility of scoring runs for they have an excellent bowling line-up.

Sakshi, Author at CricTracker

India Playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Ishant Sharma

The batting unit is pretty sorted for the Indian contingent as Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma are likely to open the innings. While there is no doubt regarding the carnage Rohit can cause on the field with the willow, India will fancy going with Shubman Gill as their second-opening batsman as they are unlikely to break the continuity and will show trust in the youngster. India’s middle-order is arguably the strongest in the cricket fraternity. At number three walks in Cheteshwar Pujara followed by skipper Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. Rishabh Pant will be the first-choice wicketkeeper as he is in the form of his life in Test matches.

India is expected to face the biggest headache while picking the five bowlers for the showpiece event. While it will majorly depend on the conditions on offer, India is likely to go with four pacers and one spin option as England holds the reputation for producing greener surfaces. In the case of only one spinner, Ravindra Jadeja will get a nod ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin. While Ashwin might be a better spinner than Jadeja, the latter seems a more lucrative option owing to his better batting and fielding skills.

As far as the pace unit is concerned, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Ishant Sharma will be the three first-choice pacers. For the fourth seam slot, Mohammed Siraj seems a better option as he can bowl longer spells and has the ability of swing the ball.

New Zealand Playing XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Ajaz Patel, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult

After the Test series against England, there should be no confusion in the New Zealand camp regarding the openers as Devon Conway walks in with Tom Latham in the final. While Latham has been phenomenal in the Tests for the Blackcaps, Conway has confirmed his place in the team after smashing a double century on debut. The Kiwis have a competent middle-order in the form of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, and BJ Watling.

Colin de Grandhomme is likely to be the all-rounder in the NZ camp for the WTC final. Colin will provide more variety to the pace attack. Also, Ajaz Patel can essay the role of the only spinner for the team. The trio of Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, and Trent Boult are expected to be the first-choice seamers for NZ. With swing at the offer, the NZ seamers can cause a lot of trouble for the Indian batters.

Gauri Chandra, Sub Editor at CricTracker

Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson
Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

India’s Predicted Playing XI for WTC Final: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah

As India will step up to match shoulders with New Zealand in the WTC final, they are expected to go with the above set of players. Virat Kohli will be the key member of the side who would be expected to show light to his team towards the path of success. The batting order will look robust with the presence of Rohit, Pujara, and Pant who all have shown a terrific form of late.

Though the conditions in England are expected to favour the pacers, both Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will have a place in the final team owing to their respective skill set. Shami, Ishant Sharma, and Bumrah are expected to be the first choice set of pacers. The expertise and experience of Sharma in the whites will be an added good for the team.

New Zealand’s Predicted Playing XI for WTC Final: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(wk), Colin De Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel

The high-spirited New Zealand team will be led by star batsman Kane Williamson who would be expected to fetch big numbers. Their batting setup will have the likes of Latham, Conway, Taylor, Watling, and Nicholls. Experienced Taylor has stood up time and again for the Kiwis, and his experience will be of great value in the marquee clash. On the other hand, Conway has just put his foot in the Test format, but his debut made it clear that the man is meant for big things.

The pace section of the Kiwis will be headed by Boult, which will also have Jamieson and Southee. The situations are meant for pacers in England, and New Zealand couldn’t have had a better and stronger combination than this. Ajaz Patel will be expected to find a place as a sole spinner in the team.

R Sai Siddhharth, Author at CricTracker

India’s playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant(WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami

Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma will open the batting. Gill impressed in his debut series in Australia and is a batsman who is always on the lookout for runs. Rohit Sharma has also been in good form in the recent past in Test cricket. In fact, his sparkling 161 against England in Chennai in February 2021 is one of the most mellifluous knocks played by the ‘Hitman’ in his Test career.  Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane have been the bedrocks of the Indian side and they pick themselves.

Rishabh Pant will be the wicketkeeper in the side. I will go in with two spinning all-rounders in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin and Jadeja have taken a whopping 629 wickets together in Tests. These two men have also scored 6 centuries and 26 half-centuries between them with the willow in the whites. The three pacers in the side will be Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami. Bumrah is a sure-shot pick, Ishant Sharma brings with him an experience of 101 Test matches and Shami can get the ball to zip off the surface.

New Zealand playing XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson(C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(WK), Colin De Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult

Tom Latham and Devon Conway will open the batting. Conway experienced a fairytale start to his Test career by scoring a double century on Test debut against England. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will occupy the No.3 and No.4 slots. Henry Nicholls will come in at No.5. BJ Watling will don the wicketkeeper’s gloves.

New Zealand is likely to play one spinner, and left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel will get the nod. New Zealand’s three-pronged pace attack will consist of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, and left-arm seamer Trent Boult. While Jamieson can use his height to trouble the batsmen with the extra bounce that he generates, Boult and Southee can get the ball to move both ways and are vastly experienced as well.

Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson
Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Aakash Ghosh, Author at CricTracker

India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma

Most of the line-up picks themselves up. The top 6 is the same as the last time India played a Test match. I have gone for Ravindra Jadeja at no. 7 and Ashwin at no. 8. Some eyebrows might be raised because of the addition of two spinners, but I truly believe the addition of Jadeja adds a lot of variety to this team. You need to have five bowlers, he is a left-arm bowler and only one of the two left-handed batsmen in this side.

As far as pacers are concerned, I was tempted to pick Siraj because of his ability to swing the ball. However, I have gone with the same three quicks who played in the 2018 Test against England in Southampton. There will be a bit of seam movement and bounce, which will keep all these three in the game. I hope missing an out and out swing bowler doesn’t come back to bite India.

NZ Playing XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel

For New Zealand as well, the top six picks themselves. But it is beyond that top 6 that the tough calls need to be made. I was surprised that Mitchell Santner was not included in the 15 for the final, but it could be because of the resurgence of Ajaz Patel in the Edgbaston Test. I have left Jamieson out because there is no way I think New Zealand should keep Boult or Wagner out of this match. On top of that, Southee has been bowling beautifully and in a way, deserves to play this match.

I have added Patel because I do believe it would be a mistake to not take a spinner into this match. Yes, there won’t be a lot of turn and the seamers could be heavily dominating, but I do believe if the match goes into the 4th or 5th day, we might see the wicket cracking up a bit, despite it being early summer. In that situation, a spinner is required and it should be taken into account that a spinner can add variety to the attack.

Gaurav, Author at CricTracker

India Playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma

While Rohit Sharma is certain to open in Southampton, there might be a discussion in picking his partner. Mayank Agarwal has done well in IPL 2021 to stake his claim in the final combination. However, India should stick with Shubman Gill, especially after his impressive show in the warm-up game. There won’t be a great dilemma in picking the middle order with Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane being the mainstays of the Test team.

Hanuma Vihari has done well batting at number six in the overseas Test. However, he would have to warm benches in the WTC final to allow India to field both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The Southampton track might offer spin in the latter half, and the duo can be handy. One shouldn’t forget about their batting prowess. Rishabh Pant is sure to keep wickets, while the pace trio should comprise Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Ishant Sharma. These three fast bowlers have played Tests in England before, and hence, Mohammed Siraj is likely to warm the benches.

New Zealand Playing XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel

Devon Conway has sealed his place as an opener after his spectacular show against England, and he’ll start the New Zealand innings alongside Tom Latham at the Ageas Bowl. Skipper Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, and Henry Nicholls will next be in the batting order, and the Indian bowlers should come up with a solid plan to tackle them. Wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling will take the field for the last time in Test cricket, and he would like to hang up his boots on a high note.

Like India, the Kiwis also have to make some tough calls while selecting bowlers. There won’t be much discussion in picking the pacers with the quartet of Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, and Trent Boult delivering consistently. However, the Kiwis should find a way to field left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel with many right-handed batters featuring in India’s line-up. To accommodate a place for Patel, Kyle Jamieson, who has played some handy knocks in Test, should be placed at number seven. Not to forget, Boult, Southee, and Wagner can also play handy shots.

Prem Shekhawat, Statistician at CricTracker

India playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj

The top 6 players in the batting lineup pretty much pick themselves. I will go with a combination of 6 specialist batsmen including the wicketkeeper, 2 spinners, and 3 pacers. I am picking Ravindra Jadeja at number 7 given how he has improved in the past few years, and what he offers as a complete package makes him a good asset. Ravi Ashwin will be my obvious choice for the frontline spinner, and plus the fact that the Kiwi side has a number of left-handers in their batting line-up.

In the pace department, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami have done a terrific job so far and they will surely feature in the XI. I have gone with Mohammad Siraj over Ishant Sharma as the third pacer. I think Siraj has got the knack of picking wickets at crucial junctures and can provide early breakthroughs as well. He has shown his potential in the Australia tour earlier and can play a big part in the final for India.

New Zealand playing XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel

The top 6 players in the New Zealand batting line look settled as well and make the cut without a doubt. Kyle should find his place in the XI as he contributes well in both departments. He did extremely well in the last Test series against India. It is a tough call but Matt Henry won’t make it to my team for the final.

The experienced pace trio of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, and Trent Boult will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Since Mitchell Santner is already out of the final, I am expecting Ajaz Patel to find a place in the XI as the lone spinner.

Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson
Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Pratyay Tiwari, Sub Editor at CricTracker

India playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj

Mayank Agarwal’s axing confirms the openers, so that’s one headache less. But there are still many, all thanks to India’s ridiculous depth. I will set out the no-brainers first: Rishabh Pant is in, no arguments; Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will open, with a nearly unshakable trio of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane following the two.

Nearly? Because, I’m slightly hesitant picking Rahane, given how he has fared in England, but can’t ignore his stellar WTC run. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves, as does Ravindra Jadeja. Now the quandary of three-pace-two-spin or four-pace-one-spin. I will rather have Ravichandran Ashwin in than out. More so, as this is one contest in the English summer and at Southampton, a venue that has boded well for Ashwin’s type. And of course, this gives the much-needed batting depth.

The biggest head-scratcher, then. Ishant Sharma or Mohammed Siraj? With a massive boulder on my heart, I’d drop the veteran for the youngster, purely because of the way Siraj fared in Australia. And also, watching him operate with the Dukes ball is an interesting proposition. It is hard to break the Shami-Ishant-Bumrah trio, but that’s that. Sorry, Ishant.

New Zealand Playing XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel

You cannot not pick Devon Conway after that kind of debut series. So, he opens for me alongside Latham. Williamson, Taylor, and Henry Nicholls are a given for the next three spots, while BJ Watling needs none’s certification. One of the finest contemporary wicketkeepers and more than reliable with the bat, nothing beats him.

The temptation of playing the pace quartet of Boult, Southee, Wagner, and Jamieson with a seam-bowling all-rounder in Colin de Grandhomme is as much enticing as it is risky. England rued not having a spinner only very recently, relying on the part-time spin of Joe Root.

Don’t think it’ll be wise for Williamson to put himself into the attack in a clash with stakes these high. So, better play a spinner. An extraordinarily impressive Test record of Jamieson ensures him a place, which leaves with only one way to fit Ajaz Patel in i.e., ditching de Grandhomme. And obviously, not for nothing did New Zealand axe Mitchell Santner.

Mahadev Prasad, Author at CricTracker

India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, MD. Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

Shubman Gill will open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma, he had tackled the Australian bowlers well which helped India to win a series earlier this year.

Siraj is a wicket-taking bowler who has provided breakthroughs when the team needed the most. He runs in and bowls at the same speed every time and his ability to clock 140 plus will get him the place in the final eleven.

New Zealand Playing XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult

Colin de Grandhomme will be a 5th bowling option for skipper Williamson, he swings the ball both the ways and he will be really handful with the bat down the order.

BJ Watling will play the final Test match of his career and he will be the first choice wicket-keeping option ahead of Tom Blundell.

Padmaja, Author at CricTracker

India Playing XI: R Sharma, S Gill, C Pujara, V Kohli, A Rahane, R Pant (wk), R Ashwin, I Sharma, J Bumrah, M Siraj, M Shami

I think the pitch in Southampton might favor the pacers. So India will play only one spinner in Ravi Ashwin who has form and momentum going for him. Siraj will play considering he swings the ball both ways and has had a terrific four months.

New Zealand Playing XI: D Conway, T Latham, K Williamson, R Taylor, H Nicholls, C de Grandhomme, Ajaz Patel, BJ Watling, K Jamieson, T Southee, T Boult

Generally, New Zealand doesn’t rely on spin and they might be tempted to go for an all-pace attack considering the past history of Indians not playing the swing well. Although they might be tempted to play Ajaz Patel too who generally is pretty tight with his overs.

India are slight favorites due to their freshness and New Zealand must be a bit tired playing two Tests before the WTC Final.

Ravi Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara
Ravi Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Shuvaditya Bose, Sub Editor at CricTracker

Indian Playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma

Chances are, the first six names will be the same in the gazillion playing XIs you will see prior to the occasion, with everyone from that lot selecting themselves. Opinions will start to differ from then onwards, predominantly regarding two aspects. Let us tackle them one at a time.

The first dilemma is – Should India play two spinners and three pacers, or opt for four pace options? I will go for the former. The Rose Bowl, despite what the location might tell you, is not the most quintessential of English pitches. It is one of the three English stadiums where spinners have averaged less than 40 in Tests.

The second dilemma will be – Who will be India’s three pacers? Jasprit Bumrah will undoubtedly be India’s number one option, while I have gone with Ishant Sharma as my number two. The veteran has played 12 Test matches in England, which is most by any of India’s current crop of pacers in the squad.

For the third option, I have gone with Mohammed Siraj. While Mohammed Shami is the far more experienced option, he has found himself struggling more often than not when playing in England. In fact, England is the only country where Shami has averaged over 40 in Tests. Siraj, on the other hand, toured England back in 2018, when he was representing India A. He picked up 15 wickets in two unofficial Tests, which was the most by any Indian bowler.

New Zealand XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (Captain), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner.

Like India, the top six of New Zealand looks fairly settled. Boasting of one of the fiercest pace attacks, for New Zealand, the dilemma will be whether to field a specialist spinner or not. Though the track is unlikely to be harsh on spinners, as established previously, I have gone with Colin de Grandhomme at number 7 and four pacers.

Colin de Grandhomme is not the most threatening of wicket-takers, but what he does exceptionally well is keeping the flow of runs under control. His economy rate is 2.21 runs per over in England, and while you might question the efficacy of economy rate in Tests, it is important not to leak out too many runs when the prime bowling assets are not in attack.

I have also picked Neil Wagner ahead of Matt Henry. The mention of the latter might spark nightmarish Deja Vu if you are an Indian fan, but Wagner’s short balls are likely to have a bigger impact than Henry’s seam movement. The left-arm quick is one of the two New Zealand pacers from their current squad to have a Test average of under 30 in England, with Boult being the other one.

Sabyasachi Chowdhury, Editor at CricTracker

India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

The top and middle order is pretty much sorted for Team India. Since Mayank Agarwal isn’t in the 15-man squad, hence it’s confirmed that Shubman Gill opens with Rohit Sharma. Gill had his travails during the Test series against England and a poor IPL campaign didn’t help his confidence by any means. But keeping in mind his performance in Australia, Gill will be expected to make amends.

In another debatable selection, India should be going in with both Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja due to their all-round abilities. The fact that Ashwin got a ton at the Chepauk earlier this year should augur well for Team India. Jadeja, on the other hand, has learned the art of accelerating in the hour of need. The focus will also be on Rishabh Pant, who has shown a great level of audacity across formats.

NZ Playing XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner, Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Trent Boult

New Zealand would remember how Kyle Jamieson ripped India’s batting apart in 2020 on Test debut. Neil Wagner bowls bouncers at the batsman’s body and hence, the Kiwis could unleash him at any stage. Trent Boult has, historically, troubled the Indian batters to a large extent.

The focus will be on BJ Watling, who would be playing his last Test. Kane Williamson’s return is also expected to strengthen the Kiwis’ batting. Tim Southee is among the leading wicket-takers in the WTC and he can be lethal as well.