World Test Championship Final: Virat Kohli & co root for women’s team on a rainy day

Cricket - WTC Final
Members of Indian cricket team, Mohammed Shami and Wriddhiman Saha, take a stroll along with support staff around the Ageas Bowl on a rain-swept day. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: The long and futile wait for first day’s play of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final on Friday to begin gave Virat Kohli & Co a good chance to catch up with the action of their women’s counterparts, who are staging a gutsy fight after following on against England in the one-off Test in Bristol.

The much-hyped WTC final saw rains washing out first day’s play between India and New Zealand. However, with a rest day in place on June 23, there are still full five days of action left – though there is prediction of rains in varying degrees throughout the week.

V. Sridhar, the affable Indian fielding coach, revealed that the men’s team was keeping a keen eye on the performance of Mithali Raj’s team – who are getting an opportunity to play a Test match after seven years. ‘‘We have been watching young Shafali Verma’s batting. She reminds you of Viru (Virendra Sehwag), isn’t it? It’s a pity she didn’t get a century in the first innings,’’ he said at the virtual press conference after day’s play was called off.

Verma was dismissed for 96 as Indian eves were all out for 231 in their first innings after England scored 396 for nine declared. Indian batting looked a lot more resolute in the second innings in following on and young Verma was batting on an unbeaten half-century again.

There was some speculation if the Indian team’s think tank will be inclined to change their decision of playing two spinners in such overcast conditions and a surface with moisture, but Sridhar was understandably displomatic in his answer. ‘‘The playing XI has been announced by taking everything into equation, but since the toss has not been done – it’s upto the team management if they want a change,’’ he said.

It had started raining in Southampton on Thursday afternoon and the coin toss could not take place because of the drizzle – which ensured the square remained under cover throughout the day.

The rain relented for a while but whatever hopes the organisers had of starting the match after lunch evaporated as it returned. The umpires inspected conditions before the day’s play was abandoned. “Due to persistent rain, play has been abandoned on day one of the #WTC21 Final in Southampton,” the governing International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Twitter.

New Zealand, currently the top-ranked Test team, are yet to reveal their playing XI and may be now lured to go with an all-pace attack.

The Black Caps are yet to name a final XI for the match, with that expected to be decided by coach Gary Stead and captain Kane Williamson on Saturday.

For vice-captain Tom Latham, while there was understandable disappointment at not playing at all on day one, he admitted that it did not come as a huge surprise and praised the provision of a potential sixth day. “It’s disappointing – the rain today, it was forecast unfortunately, but it’s one of those things that as cricketers you need to adapt. It’s something we can’t control, it’s just about waiting and when we get the opportunity to come on, making sure we’re ready.

“The beauty of it is there is day six as well, so there is a little extra time that we can use then. We’ll wait and see and have a look tomorrow.”