WTC Final: Kohli, Williamson to set aside their bonhomie for now

Kane Williamson talks to India's Virat Kohli
It will be a battle of contrasting styles between the two captains, Virat Kohli (left) and Kane Williamson in the WTC final. Image Credit: Reuters file

Kolkata: The mutual respect between rival captains Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson may be a known fact in cricketing circles, but both will keep it for another day when India and New Zealand step into Ageas Bowl for the first-ever World Test Championship final on Friday.

It took a ‘‘long time coming,’’ in the words of Williamson, but both admitted that the teams were excited to play the match which has given a whole new context to the oldest format of cricket for the past two years. ‘‘It’s a huge Test match for us and we are very excited as a team,’’ an intense Kohli said at a virtual press conference.

‘‘We have played each other quite a few times in recent years and keep in touch. However, such bonding happens away from the field but we cross the line and go in, we are professionals trying to do our job,’’ Kohli said in reference to his camaraderie with Williamson.

India’s jinx against New Zealand in ICC tournaments had been raked up every now and then, the most heartbreaking one being their loss in the ICC World Cup semi-final in 2019. When reminded about it, Kohli said: ‘‘We lost to New Zealand on a given day, but this one is not a ODI or T20 game. We take a lot of pride in Test cricket and we are not looking at one Test match that begins tomorrow. We are looking at all the six Test matches that we have to play in England…We have a process to strive for.”

Southampton had been experiencing an unusal heatwave for the past few days, but there is a forecast of of rain and thunderstorm over the next new days. Asked if the weather predictions may impact their plans, Kohli said: ‘‘We are coverning all bases, we are clear about we want to do and not bothered about what the weather holds, even though our plans may change on a day-to-day basis depending on it.’’

Williamson, who along with their reliable wicketkeeper-batsman J.B. Watling were cleared to be named in the 15-member contingent on Tuesday, said his elbow is doing much better now after some medical attention.

Playing his cards close to his chest about the playing XI, Williamson said: ‘‘I can’t announce at this stage, we will have to check out on a couple of things after taking a final look at the wicket.’’

How does it feel to take the stage as the No.1 ranked team and fresh from a creditable Test series win against England? Williamson struck a pragmatic note: ‘‘We all know India have been a very strong team all around the world – the rankings of course take a different shade every now and then.

‘‘The two-year cycle has seen exciting matches with teams going all out to win matches. There have been some sporting declarations,’’ the Kiwi captain reflected on the influence the World Test Championship. ‘‘It’s unique to play the match on a neutral venue. I would say that it’s not only these two countries, but the entire cricketing world is excited. In cricket, anything can happen,’’ he added with a wry smile.