WTC Final 2023: Warner's form, lack of warm-up games and other concerns for Australia ahead of clash vs India

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The wait is almost over. Team India and Team Australia will battle it out at The Oval in London for the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) title from 7 June, in what has been branded the ‘Ultimate Test’.

India, who reached the 2021 WTC Final, have not won a major ICC trophy since the 2013 Champions Trophy, and the longest format’s showpiece event presents the opportunity to end the trophy drought.

Read: India’s concerns ahead of WTC Final 

Meanwhile, this will be Australia’s first appearance at the WTC Final after having narrowly missed out in 2021 to their Trans-Tasman rivals, but in no way will their challenge against Rohit Sharma and Co easy.

Pat Cummins and his men have a few concerns going ahead into the summit clash. Here, we take a look at some of them:

David Warner’s form with the bat

Nobody can deny the fact that David Warner is one of Australia’s most experienced batters out there, and will be taking field with huge confidence . However, much recently, Warner has not been his usual self in Tests, so much so that the 36-year-old recently announced that he would be retiring from Tests in 2024.

Although Warner did score a double century against South Africa in Melbourne in December 2022, the southpaw struggled against India when the Aussies travelled to the country for a four-Test series.

Against India, the New South Wales-born cricketer managed just 26 runs from two Tests, before being forced off the field while batting in the second Test in Delhi, due to a concussion after being hit on the helmet by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer.

Warner, however, almost single-handedly carried Delhi Capitals (DC) batting lineup in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL), where he scored 516 runs (With six fifties), and that might have instilled some confidence in him, albeit this being a shift from format, from T20s to the Test mode.

“I’ve actually been superb in terms of my feet are moving, my energy’s been moving, and I’ve been up and about. I’ve come off the IPL and, in that format, you have to look to score and I think that’s held me in good stead for this (Test) preparation. I’m still looking to score,” Warner recently said.

In the last 12 months, Warner has scored 405 runs from nine matches at an average of 28.92.

Lack of warm-up matches

The talk of the town in the Australian team’s camp has been lack of preparation for the WTC Final in the form of warm-up games.

Instead of playing warm-up games, the Australian players have undergone a high-intensity, seven-hour training session in Beckenham, United Kingdom. Even prior to the training sessions in Beckenham, the Aussies held a four-day acclimitisation camp in Formby, near Liverpool.

A few Australian players like Warner and Cameron Green are coming off their IPL 2023 campaigns with their respective teams, and that gives them little time to prepare for the WTC Final.

Australia’s decision to not play warm-up matches ahead of marquee tournaments like the WTC Final and Ashes is “fraught with danger”, said former captain Allan Border.

“I don’t care how hard you work in the nets, nothing replaces game time,” Border had told Fox Sports.

“It just doesn’t feel right not to play any cricket leading into an Ashes series. I just think that’s fraught with danger… there’s something gnawing at me saying it’s the wrong decision,” he had added.

Skipper Pat Cummins, however, said that his team is ‘rejuventated and refreshed’ ahead of the long Test season.

“Back home, we did lot of training. We have trained hard, rejuvenated and refreshed and are keen,” said Cummins at the ‘Afternoon with Test Legends’ event organized by ICC at The Oval.

Josh Hazlewood injury

Australia pacer Josh Hazlewood was already in doubt for the WTC Final, in a fresh injury blow for Pat Cummins and Co, Hazlewood has been ruled out of the all-important contest due to an Achilles injury.

Hazlewood did turn up for RCB in IPL 2023, but three matches into the season, he suffered the injury again and was eventually ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

Hazlewood last played a Test in January this year against South Africa, and missed the India series entirely.

Michael Neser has been named replacement for Hazlewood in the squad, but it remains to be seen if Neser gets a place in in the squad. Scott Boland was part of the original squad , and 34-year-old could very well replace Hazlewood in the playing XI, considering his pace and control over the ball in conditions on English soil.

Whoever comes into the XI, Australia will surely miss the firepower of Josh Hazlewood, who has been one of the go-to bowlers over the past few years.

Australia’s record at The Oval

Australia’s Test record at The Oval does not read well. The Aussies have managed just seven wins in 38 matches at the venue, and only two of those have come in the last 50 years.

Just seven wins means the Aussies have a win percentage of 18.42.

One silver lining heading into the marquee fixture at The Oval for Australia would be Steve Smith’s numbers at the venue. Smith has scored 391 runs from three innings, including two centuries, but rather than an individual effort, Australia would be hoping to fire as a collective unit and end the winless drought against a tough Indian team.

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