WTC final – R Ashwin suggests neutral venues for series that count towards WTC points


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India spinner also thinks New Zealand will come into WTC final ‘with an advantage’, having played England in England in the lead-in

A week before the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton, India offspinner R Ashwin has suggested that one of the tournament’s potential evolutions could be that teams play the bilateral series that count towards WTC points at neutral venues to “add context”.

“If I may say this, it has to be the most exciting part of playing Test cricket. In all these years, it never happened – we’ve never played a team in a neutral venue,” Ashwin said on bcci.tv. “But I think going forward, maybe the WTC could add context this way, [by having] two teams playing away from their home and sort of bringing the whole ebbs and flows of the game.”

The WTC’s first edition ran a two-year cycle starting in 2019. As per the original structure devised by the ICC, each team was to play six bilateral series, three at home and three away. To make each match count, points were handed out for every match, with the top two teams on the points table contesting a one-off final. The final of the first edition between India and New Zealand will happen in Southampton, a neutral venue, and Ashwin said it could add more to the quality of the tournament if the associated bilateral series took a similar route.

Ashwin’s viewpoint was also shared by his India team-mate and fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who – also speaking to bcci.tv – said India and New Zealand squaring off in the final without either having a “home advantage” would make for good competition.
This is the second suggestion for potential improvements on the WTC coming from the Indian camp. Before their departure to England, head coach Ravi Shastri had said that a best-of-three series should be considered to crown the WTC winner, as opposed to a one-off game at the end of the two-year cycle. Shastri appreciated that conditions around the world may not be suited to such a series at the moment, but said it would be the “ideal” culmination to a two-and-a-half year tournament going forward.
‘New Zealand will come in with an advantage’
India will be heading into this WTC final with less game time in the lead-up than New Zealand, who are currently playing the second Test of a two-match series against England in England. While the first game was truncated due to the weather and multiple senior players have been rested for the second, the workout in English conditions should offer New Zealand an advantage.

“I expect a very well-planned and well-knit New Zealand team to come at us,” Ashwin said. “Obviously having played two Tests, they will definitely come in with an advantage. So we have to adapt to that.”



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