Former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has pointed to the battle between Indian top-order and the Kiwi pacers as a potentially match-defining contest in the WTC finale. He also added that India's last Test series loss to New Zealand won't matter much given India have done well in the recent-times.
One of the key factors in India's series win Down Under was their top-order performance. Shubman Gill had helped turn around India's fortunes ever since he started opening the batting in place of Prithvi Shaw, while Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara also chipped in with good displays in the final two Tests. However, the Indian top-order will face one of their biggest challenges this year, when they clash with the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner, in seam-friendly English conditions.
Rohit Sharma's technique against the moving ball has always remained under scrutiny. When it comes to Shubman Gill, he's highly inexperienced. While Cheteshwar Pujara's average falls down from 47.29 Down Under to 29.41 in England. And that makes India’s top-order vulnerable in the forthcoming clash. Former New Zealand coach and RCB's incumbent director of cricket operations, Mike Hesson has stated that the battle between the Kiwi pacers and India's top-order can define the outcome of the WTC final.
"I am keen to see how India's top-order fares against the swinging ball. The ball does a bit in Southampton and as the cross breeze comes into play, it can be a challenge for the batsmen. How the Indian top-order plays the New Zealand pacers could decide the outcome," Hesson told TOI.
The general opinion around the conditions in England is that it's more favourable for New Zealand given the nature of seamer-friendly decks. However, Hesson disagrees with this assertion and finds the playing field even for both sides.
"They are even. The fact that it’s being played at a neutral venue also makes the WTC final an even contest. I think both sides are going to be at their strongest, which is great. Assuming there are no injuries in the next couple of weeks, both sides will be at full strength and we are in for an exciting Test."
The last time when New Zealand and India locked horns in a Test series, New Zealand had whitewashed India 2-0 on some green wickets. But Hesson feels given India's recent displays, the outcome of the last series won't have much of a bearing on the finale.
"I don't think so. India played New Zealand in a very different condition in 2020. This Indian side has shown in recent times that they are a top-notch side and the WTC final will all boil down to which team executes its plans better."
The captaincy and batting exploits from Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson is supposedly going to be one of the biggest deciding factors in the game. Talking about both the skippers, Hesson opined that they will be tested to the core in this pressure game and their strategies will make for an engrossing spectacle.
"Both are very good leaders and yes, both are different in their style of captaincy. Kane is more of a slow-burn in the sense that he likes to put pressure over a period of time. Virat, on the other hand, is constantly looking for ways to put his side in the driver’s seat.
"The WTC final will be a test of captaincy for both Kane and Virat. As the wicket changes from day to day, it will be interesting to see how both Kane and Virat make those little tweaks in their strategies to stay ahead," Hesson said.