Team India will lock horns with New Zealand in the summit clash of the ICC World Test Championship Final at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton between June 18-22. The Bharat Army troops are all set to invade Southampton this week.
The Ultimate Test will kickstart a period of 8 months that could potentially turn out to be a legacy-defining phase for Virat Kohli the captain and the entire group of players who have been a part of the journey that saw the Indian Cricket Team rise from No.7 to the numero uno spot in the Test rankings since King Kohli took over in 2015.
The World Test Championship final will be followed by a five-match rubber against England. Later this year, India will travel to South Africa with the hope of becoming the first team from the country to win a Test series in the rainbow nation.
India has been the best Test team in the world since the start of 2016. During the period, the Virat Kohli-led unit has won 35 out of the 55 Test matches that they have played and their W/L ratio of 2.916 is the best among all teams.
India: Road to the Test of Champions
They have demolished everyone on home soil- 22 wins and 2 defeats in 28 games with a W/L ratio of 11- and even in overseas conditions, Kohli's men have been the most competitive. In 27 away Tests since 2016, India has won 13 and lost just 10, and once again their W/L ratio of 1.3 is the best among all nations.
They won in the West Indies in 2016 (2-0), defeated Sri Lanka (3-0) in 2017 but their most impressive achievement has certainly been the back-to-back triumphs against Australia Down Under.
India dominated an Australian team sans David Warner and Steve Smith to win their first series Down Under in 2018/19 and they went on to do an encore two winters later, albeit with an injury-ravaged team with nearly 9-10 first-choice players missing.
India's brimming bench strength came to the fore in Australia last winter as the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar made the most of the opportunities that came their way while Rishabh Pant came of age with career-defining performances.
Riding high on an unbelievable Test series win in Australia; one that displayed the team's resilience, grit, brimming bench strength, composure, tenacity, and of course, precocious skills to the hilt, Team India will now travel to the United Kingdom where they will have a golden chance to correct the wrongs of 2018.
Virat Kohli's men had a brilliant opportunity of becoming the first Indian team to beat South Africa (in South Africa) in a Test series and England for the first time since 2007 during the 2018 season.
But a combination of poor team selections, shoddy performances by the batting unit, and inability to drive home the advantage in crucial situations, ensured that while they competed in both of those rubbers, they ended up losing them 1-2 (in South Africa) and 1-4 (in England).
Three years later, another opportunity beckons for this group of men but before that, they will have to battle it out with New Zealand in the WTC final.
New Zealand: A Thorn in the Flesh
New Zealand was the only team to beat India during the World Test Championship cycle. The Kiwis have been the bogey team for India for a long time now.
Since the start of this century, India has suffered multiple heartbreaks at the hands of New Zealand in ICC events. They lost the Champions Trophy final in 2000; T20 World Cup fixtures in 2007 and 2016 besides losing the 2019 World Cup semi-final. The only ICC event fixture that Team India has won against New Zealand this century was the 2003 World Cup Super-6 rubber.
History is certainly against Virat Kohli's team but if they have to earn the right of being in the same league as Clive Lloyd's all-conquering West Indian team of the 1980s or the great Australian side of the 2000s, they will have to ensure that they overcome the odds and find a way to script a series win in every condition and against all teams.
Can they do it? Of course, they can! Will they do it? Only time will tell.