WTC final: Lack of warm-up games a disadvantage, says Pujara

While New Zealand played two Tests against England, India had to make do with intra-squad matches ahead of the World Test Championship final starting on Friday.

Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara in conversation during the Sydney Test in Australia.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

Senior India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has admitted lack of a warm-up fixture ahead of India’s inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final versus New Zealand is a bit of a disadvantage.

“It is (a disadvantage), but this is something we cannot control. These are challenging times because of the pandemic, and you cannot have the luxury of extra preparation time. But the most important part is the game is still going on and that we are playing a final,” said Pujara in a virtual media interaction on Tuesday.

“Preparation time is a bit of a disadvantage maybe, but if you are ready for the challenge, even if circumstances are not favourable, you will do well. We are confident as a team. Maybe a few extra days of preparation would have helped, but we can’t complain. We are ready," he added.

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India will face New Zealand at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton from Friday. While New Zealand will enter the game having defeated England in a two-Test series, India had to manage their training sessions with intra-squad matches besides net sessions after serving the mandatory quarantine period.

Pujara said that India made the most of the centre-wicket simulation with batsmen trying to “spend time in the middle” and bowlers “getting used to workload”.

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The veteran batsman, a Test-match specialist, stressed the WTC final is as big as playing a World Cup final for him. “Personally, it means a lot to me. This is the first time we are in a WTC final. We have worked hard. It’s just like playing in a 50-over or T20 World Cup final,” he said.

“Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important. If we win, then many youngsters would want to play the Test format and be part of the final when the next cycle comes around.”

Thakur excluded 

Meanwhile, India has omitted Shardul Thakur from the 15-member squad for the WTC final. The pruned squad was announced on Tuesday as per the ICC regulations.

Thakur was touted as a possible fourth-pacer option as he also could be handy with the bat, as he showcased in Australia. However, the team management has preferred the experience of Umesh Yadav ahead of the Mumbai pacer.

The squad:

Virat Kohli (capt.), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant (w.k.), Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Wriddhiman Saha (w.k.).

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