CHENNAI: Despite producing top-quality performances on the international stage, an ICC title has eluded New Zealand cricket for over two decades. New Zealand’s only ICC crown came in the form of the Champions Trophy which they won by beating India in 2000. They have made the summit clashes of the last two ODI World Cups, 2015 and 2019, but failed to cross the line.
The upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final against India in Southampton offers another chance for the Black Caps to win a major title. Nevertheless, they are a “top-quality side”, feels former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson.
How do you assess the two teams for the WTC final?
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.
What will be the big battles of the 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.
With just a Champions Trophy to their name, do you feel this is a good chance for New Zealand to add another ICC crown to the cabinet?
We are in our third final after the 2015 ODI World Cup, followed by the 2019 World Cup in England. The Black Caps are a top-quality side who have played quality cricket for a long period of time. It’s a huge moment for both sides. Whoever wins the WTC final will be worthy champions.
Will the last series loss against New Zealand play on India’s mind?
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.
Having worked with both Virat Kohli (as director of cricket operations in RCB) and Kane Williamson, how do you assess their leadership styles?
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.
In the past, an India-New Zealand clash has been all about Virat and Kane. Do you feel the focus has shifted now with other players making a mark?
Absolutely. If you look at the world Test rankings, you will find players from both sides featuring prominently. Both sides don’t rely on one or two players any more and that’s why they have made the WTC final. You need match-winners who can perform across conditions and both sides have that.
Are you all for a reserve day and a shared trophy in case of a draw?
I do. I think the fact that they have a reserve day is good. If after five tough days of cricket there isn’t a winner, then I am happy to say that a draw will be a good result.
Do you feel the WTC Final could have been a best-of-the-three affair?
In this edition, we only have one final. It will be interesting to see if the ICC does opt for a best-of-three format in future. It will depend on a lot of factors such as venue, playing conditions and even time.