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WTC Final: India vs Australia – 5 Key Player Battles Which Could Dictate Result

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

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If you claim any game of cricket to be an eleven-against-eleven affair, you are running the risk of being termed anachronistic. Whilst the statement is macro-cosmically correct, the synergetic evolution of cricket and technology has shifted the focus to the numerous, intrinsic one-against-one battles within the game,

‘Matchups’ is the new buzzword of the game, and it will be used extensively for the next five days – between 7-12 June – as the two best red-ball teams of the last couple of years, India and Australia, will be competing for a crown called the ICC World Test Championship.

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Before we see bats and balls in brazen battles, attention should be given to the numbers and data sheets instead, with the outcome of a few crucial matchups likely to dictate the outcome of the game.

Here are five key battles to look forward to:

1. Virat Kohli vs Pat Cummins

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

WTC Final: Virat Kohli vs Pat Cummins in Test cricket.

(Photo: BCCI/Altered by The Quint)

Virat Kohli’s current form will be a source of relief for the Indian fans. The former skipper, who guided the team to the inaugural World Test Championship final, was seen in sublime nick in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League.

He scored two centuries, and backed it up with six half-centuries. As for his form in red-ball cricket, he has scored 297 runs in only six innings this year, averaging 49.5 after three years of doom and gloom.

Albeit everything hints at a Kohli masterclass at Oval, a few factors might trigger a nerve or two in the Indian camp, and the most notable of those factors being the opposition skipper, Pat Cummins.
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The 34-year-old has troubled the Australian bowling unit on multiple occasions, boasting of an average of 48.26, with eight centuries against the baggy greens. Yet, Cummins has proven to be the most effective antidote for Kohli’s run-scoring spree.

In the 247 deliveries he has faced off Cummins’ bowling, Kohli has scored 82 runs, whilst also being dismissed on five occasions – thereby having an underwhelming average of 16.4.

Of these five dismissals, four have come at a stage when the batter was batting on a single-digit score, just trying to find footing before offering the attacking shots. Understandably, Cummins might take the onus on his shoulders as soon as Kohli comes to bat in the WTC final, with a significant share of India’s hopes hinging on their former leader’s willow.

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2. Rohit Sharma vs Nathan Lyon

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

WTC Final: Rohit Sharma vs Nathan Lyon in Test cricket.

(Photo: BCCI/Altered by The Quint)

Unlike Kohli, the current Indian skipper, Rohit Sharma does not have a nearly flawless record against the Aussies. In fact, the baggy greens happen to be the only team from SENA nations, against whom his Test average dips below 40.

Yet, against the current crop of Australian pacers, Sharma does have a rather impressive record. Incredibly, he has never been dismissed by the opposition’s pace spearhead, Mitchell Starc, while his average against Pat Cummins is higher than his average against Australia.

The one Aussie bowler who has been the Achilles’ heel for Sharma, however, has been Nathan Lyon. The off-spinner has dismissed India’s opening batter eight times in Test cricket, with the average being only 25.9.

Interestingly, Sharma has been dismissed a total of 18 times by Aussie bowlers in Test cricket, and with eight of those belonging to Lyon, the spinner’s dominance against the Indian captain is evidently highlighted.

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3. Cheteshwar Pujara vs Mitchell Starc

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

WTC Final: Mitchell Starc vs Cheteshwar Pujara in Test cricket.

(Photo: BCCI/Altered by The Quint)

If India are to win the final, they will need Cheteshwar Pujara to come up trumps, for he is the team’s trump card in multitudinous ways. Firstly, he has an average of 50.83 against Australia, with five of his 19 Test centuries coming against the WTC final opposition.

Barring that, however, India could use Pujara to neutralise Australia’s most lethal wicket-taking asset, Mitchell Starc. As it turns out, the red-ball specialist has an outstanding record against the left-arm speedster, often scoring runs at will against Starc.

Pujara has played 515 deliveries from Starc, wherein he has scored 238 runs. The latter has been able to dismiss the 35-year-old on only two occasions, with an average of 119 portraying all we need to know about Pujara’s authority.

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4. David Warner vs Mohammed Siraj

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

WTC Final: Mohammed Siraj vs David Warner in Test cricket.

(Photo: BCCI/Altered by The Quint)

Warner, although regarded as among Australia’s most decorated batters in recent times – solitarily in terms of numbers – has often found it difficult to get going against the Indians. His Test average of 45.58 takes a massive plunge to 31.73 against the men in blue, and being perfectly aware of the numbers, Rohit Sharma would want to send the opening batter packing early.

In this endeavour, India might pin their hopes on Mohammed Siraj, who has been in promising rhythm with the new ball. Warner has scored only 36 runs against Siraj, whilst being dismissed twice.

On both occasions, he had just arrived at the crease and barely got time to get his eye in, that Siraj showed him the route back to the pavilion of the Sydney Cricket Ground, and also the now extensively-documented, erstwhile fortress of Gabba.

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5. Ravindra Jadeja vs Steve Smith

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

WTC Final: Ravindra Jadeja vs Steve Smith in Test cricket.

(Photo: BCCI/Altered by The Quint)

Steve Smith could be to Australia, what Pujara is likely to be for India – a neutraliser, taking the effervescence out of the opposition’s attack. The former Australian skipper has an exemplary Test average of 65.07 against India, which includes eight centuries and five half-centuries.

Moreover, his average against India is higher than that against any other side, barring only West Indies. With the numbers proving to be menacing, India will be relying on Ravindra Jadeja to ensure Smith’s stay at the crease is not a prolonged, and potentially game-defining one.

WTC Final: Following the latest buzzword, five key 'matchups' could have a significant say in determining the winner

Steve Smith has been dismissed seven times in Test cricket by Ravindra Jadeja.

(Photo: BCCI)

The left-arm spinner has always had the upper hand against Smith, having dismissed the industrious batter on seven occasions, with the average being only 33.1 – nearly half of Smith’s average against India.

The statistics are not old and obsolete either, as when Australia toured India only a few months ago, Jadeja proved to be Smith’s nemesis yet again, getting the better of him on three different occasions – at Nagpur, Indore and Gujarat.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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