Sachin Tendulkar bats for best-of-three final in WTC format

Since all the teams have played more than one Test match in the WTC, it is fair to give both the finalists a little more chance, says Indian cricket icon Tendulkar.

Former India captain Sachin Tendulkar feels India's advantage lies in the fact that the spinners can bat, too.   -  FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS

Sachin Tendulkar, the former India captain, is excited ahead of the inaugural World Test Championship final. While elaborating on the team management’s dilemma on the bowling combination, he also suggested how the format can reach the fans better.

Would you have liked to be a part of a concept like the World Test Championship?

It would have been nice to be representing the country in the Test Championship final. As a player, yes. But I am not too sure as a spectator. It’s too spaced out, I feel. There were multiple series happening in between, so it was difficult to follow. But as a player, it would have been exciting. While those series are going on, there would be more engagement since fans are following the points table, checking on which teams are qualifying for the final. Beyond that, I feel the gaps in series make it a difficult proposition to follow. For instance, we played New Zealand early in 2020 and now after 16 months, we’ll be playing them in the final. It's been a long time.

How can the format be simplified?

All the formats take some time to settle down. I remember early on, Test cricket was timeless. Then over the years, it was shortened to six days with a rest day in between. I remember having played a Test match in that format. Now it’s down to five days. The format keeps changing and it’ll take some time to settle down. You won’t get everything right in the first shot.

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Would you like series wins to be incentivised in future?

Series wins have significance. If it’s an odd number of Test matches in a series, there’s a greater chance of a win but in an even-numbered series, you could well be levelling a series. In that case, you’ve got to make sure you stick to odd-numbered matches in a series if you have to have points. Still if it’s a draw, it doesn’t matter. It’s a tough one because there are still a lot of things being discussed. For instance, whether the final should have been best-of-three or not.

What’s your take? Should it be a one-off final or a series?

That’s also being discussed. See, we played a four-Test series in Australia, then a four-Test series against England in India and qualified for the final. Suddenly, you have to play the final, which is a one-off. There has to be continuity in whatever you do. If you are playing only one Test match in a series for the World Test Championship and the other matches of that particular series have no bearing on WTC, then a lone match as the final would have made a lot of sense. But here, all the teams have played a series and suddenly play one Test match as the final. It’s only fair that you give both the teams a little more chance. So yes, I would say that a best-of-three would have been a better option. But I do understand that it would have been very difficult for the ICC to accommodate everything in the calendar. All the teams are constantly playing and you are not sure which team is going through (to the final). So to keep that window open for all the teams becomes critical and challenging.

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What would your preferred bowling combination be for India?

It depends on the surface and I am sure the groundsman will be watering it till the 17th so that it lasts five days and is a good track for Test cricket. I haven’t had a look at the wicket but I know there are three options. One is to play with seven batters, three seamers and one spinner. The second option is to play with four seamers and one spinner. And the last is to play three seamers and two spinners. This decision needs to be taken by the management since they will have the privilege to take a close look at the wicket. At the moment, it’s too early to figure out the combination. The advantage with India is we’ve got both the spinners who can bat. Also if you look at Shardul Thakur, he scored important runs in the fourth Test match.

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What do you make of the contrasting preparation for both sides?

It is a coincidence that New Zealand and England have played a series just before the WTC final. But they have that advantage of having played two practice matches in the form of Test matches. We haven’t had that advantage but I would much rather focus on having done whatever best we could given the circumstances. It is important to think of the next step rather than the last one. The next step matters and that’s where the focus should be.

Do you think the prolonged break due to IPL suspension may be a boon for India?

There will be bowlers who will prefer to continue bowling so that they gain rhythm and there are those who wouldn’t mind a break in between. Each body is different. For some of the guys, it would have helped to get that break, not just physical but mental. That way, there are pros and cons. Even in a team, you’ll find certain players being happy with a break while certain players aren’t. Each player is different and like I said, we just have to accept whatever lies in front of us and prepare for the coming challenge.

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