Virat Kohli on Wednesday said India and New Zealand “are on equal terms” so far as the conditions in Southampton for the World Test Championship (WTC) final are concerned. The teams will play the final from June 18 at the Hampshire Bowl and India will depart for their tour of the UK, which also includes a five-Test series against England starting on August 4, on Wednesday. “The conditions (in England) are as potent for us as New Zealand… We are going to board the flight thinking that we’re on equal terms and whichever team performs well session-by-session, hour-by-hour, is going to win that championship,” said Kohli at a pre-departure virtual press conference.
New Zealand are already in England, playing a two-Test series against the hosts that began with the first Test at Lord’s on Wednesday. They are scheduled to finish their second Test at Edgbaston on June 14, a mere four days ahead of the WTC final.
However, Kohli said New Zealand did not hold an advantage over the Indians even after having had recent game time in England just before the final.
“It’s not the first time we are playing in England. (With) the hunger and desire to be there… We have no problems with having just four practice sessions going into the final,” said Kohli.
India cricketers Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma have termed the WTC final as an equivalent of a World Cup final and both Kohli and India coach Ravi Shastri agreed that the stakes could not have been higher.
“For all of us this is like an accumulation of all the hard work of the last five-six years,” Kohli said.
The magnitude of the final aside, the teams will be moving from one bio-secure bubble to another and Kohli spoke at length about the impact ‘bubble cricket’ has had on the mental health of players.
“With the current structure (moving from one bio-bubble to another), it’s very difficult for players to stay motivated,” said Kohli.
“… to be confined in one area (will be difficult).
“The mental health (of players) will come into the picture. There is no space where you can disconnect with the game.”
The WTC final will be followed by the series against England, who had beaten India 4-1 on the last tour in 2018. With India winning Test series in Australia on two consecutive away tours, could England be a final frontier?
Not quite, said Kohli. “(England series) is not a final frontier for us. We want to remain on top for years to come. We have worked hard for the final, for us it’s just about keeping the standard high,” he said.
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