The 2021 ICC World Test Championship final is set to be played on 18th April 2021 at the Hampshire Bowl cricket ground, Southampton. After 71 test matches in 27 series across two years played among the top nine test teams in the world, India top the table, and New Zealand follow.

While the former comfortably booked their spot after winning three matches and clinching the series against England, the latter were a bit lucky to qualify due to the postponement of Australia’s tour to South Africa over safety concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic. That being said, the Black Caps were the only ones to whitewash and win a series against India in this tournament. On the whole, the stage is set for an exciting contest between the two teams.

In this analysis, we will be looking at the performance of the players from both the teams in this tournament and compare them using key metrics concerning this format. Through this, we will infer the key players for the upcoming game.

The players have been categorized according to their role in the team and hence would be analyzed categorically starting with the batsmen followed by the bowlers and finally the all-rounders. To obtain better insights the performance of the players at home and away have also been analyzed.

BATTING PERFORMANCE

2021 ICC World Test Championship - Data analysis

The above is a scatter plot between the strike-rate and average of the batsmen. The size of the circle shows the number of innings to make more sense of the metrics.

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Captain Kane Williamson also the number one Test batsman at the moment, has been a perfect example of leading from the front. Williamson’s record at home is simply exceptional. He scored a total of 736 runs this season, which consists of two double centuries, a century, and a half-century in a matter of just seven innings.

Next on the list, we have Henry Nicholls who has had a great run as well scoring 441 runs consisting of two centuries and a fifty. His record against India, in particular, hasn’t been great but the Black Caps would surely expect him to perform and give them stability in the middle order. The opening duo of Tom Blundell and Tom Latham, along with Ross Taylor, are among the key players who have not batted to their potential which is a slight concern.

On the other hand, every batsman in the Indian top order has contributed to the team’s batting performance. The Indian openers, Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal, have together contributed close to 1500 runs. Rohit tops the list of the leading run-scorers, scoring 901 runs, which consists of a double century, three centuries, and a fifty. He has been a different player all together proving his class in this format as well.

The captain, Virat Kohli (625 runs), and the vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahman’s (465 runs), along with Cheteswar Purjara (387 runs) have dominated the middle order with never-ending partnerships and beautiful strokeplay. One other standout player is Rishabh Pant, who continued his form from Australia and sealed his position in the team after coming back from a rough patch in his career. He has a century and two half-centuries in just six innings with a strike rate of 84.11 in this format.

Away

Both Williamson and Nicholls have poor records away from home. They have scored 81 and 144 runs respectively in seven innings. Williamson did not disturb the scoreboard twice against Sri Lanka and Australia which is a serious concern. The top order, along with BJ Watling, have performed fairly well, albeit none of their batsmen have an average above 45.

The Indian players have not performed as well with the exceptions of Shubman Gill, Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, and Pant. Gill has two centuries to his name with an average of 51.80, which is the highest among all batsmen. Rahane and Vihari have performed exceptionally well in foreign conditions with two and three centuries to their names respectively. Pant has been consistent with two centuries and impressive with his strike rate yet again. All said and done, none of the Indian batsmen have fared well against the Black Caps, which is a cause of concern.

Overall, the depth in the Indian batting has helped them perform better than their opposition at home as well as in foreign conditions. Even otherwise, New Zealand’s batsmen don’t look very threatening except for the captain himself. They have to put in a lot more work keeping in mind the bowling attack that India possesses with the addition of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja.

BOWLING PERFORMANCE

2021 ICC World Test Championship - Data analysis The above is a scatter plot between the strike-rate and average of the bowlers. The size of the circle shows the number of overs bowled to better interpret the metrics.

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Tim Southee has been the top performer for the Black Caps at home, given his ability to swing the ball in both directions. He has picked up 32 wickets, out of which 14 were against India, including a five-for. His best figure of nine wickets in a match was during the very first test against India. Next we have Trent Boult who has picked up a total of 25 wickets, nine against India but has been surprisingly off-color against other teams and in foreign conditions.

Among the Indians, Umesh Yadav has performed well at home by picking up 23 wickets in just eight innings. He’s been the most expensive among the fast bowlers with an economy of 3.54 but picks up wickets more frequently than any other bowler on the list. Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma have been the backbone of the Indian pace attack and have picked up over 20 wickets each. Both Mohammed Siraj and Bumrah haven’t played much Test cricket at home this season which explains their position on the plot.

Away

Southee and Neil Wagner top the list with 19 and 17 wickets respectively. The duo has been deadly especially against Australia. In fact, all of Wagner’s wickets have come against the Aussies. Who doesn’t remember the battle between Steven Smith and Wagner? The latter managed to dismiss Smith four times in five innings. Boult has been below par when compared to others, however, he managed to pick up nine wickets in six outings. Among the spinners, Ajaz Patel has been promising with nine wickets and a five-for to his name.

Bumrah’s record away from home is simply outstanding. He has 30 wickets (11 more than the following player) to his name which also includes two five-fors against West Indies with an economy of 2.77 which is the best among Indian bowlers. Just when we thought Bumrah had the best figures, Sharma proved us wrong. Even though he has 14 fewer scalps, he has achieved this feat in just six innings. His wicket-taking ability in foreign conditions is second to none which is clearly evident in the plot. Both Shami and Siraj have over ten wickets to their name with Siraj being the find of the season.

Of course, the Indian pace attack is slightly above when compared to their opponents if we take Bumrah out of the equation. But with his comeback into the squad, the attack looks way more lethal. In terms of spin, India have two quality spinners on their side whereas that’s not the case for New Zealand which is a huge difference.

PERFORMANCE OF ALL-ROUNDERS

2021 ICC World Test Championship - Data analysis The above is a scatter plot between the Batting and the Bowling average of the players.

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Kylie Jameison has been the perfect “all-rounder” among the list of players. He has picked up nine wickets and scored around 100 runs in two innings against India. He also has four five-fors to his name, one against India & West Indies and two against Pakistan. We can also see that there is some serious talent among the Indian all-rounders.

Both Axar Patel and Washington Sundar have fared well in their respective specializations. The former picked up 27 wickets in just six innings with a five-for on his debut in Chennai. The latter was unlucky and couldn’t complete his hundred on two occasions but rescued his team from a tough situation. Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have scored the most number of runs and taken the highest wickets among this group. Ashwin has picked up 52 wickets in just 17 innings with four five-fors which is simply unbelievable. He was also awarded the Man of the Series for his performance against England earlier this year.

Away

In foreign conditions, Colin De Grandhomme has been the best performer for the blackcaps with nine wickets and 231 runs in just four innings which makes him the top scorer in this list of players. The Indian all-rounders have been impressive in foreign conditions as well. Sundar managed to pick up four wickets and score 84 runs on his debut. Both Jadeja and Ashwin have 15 wickets to their name. In addition to this, the former is also the highest run-scorer amongst the Indian all-rounders.

The depth and quality of the Indian all-rounders is way above par when compared to the Black Caps. However, they haven’t been very impressive against New Zealand in particular. On the other hand, Jameison has been impressive both with the ball and the bat against India at home. Both Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santer have to work hard and perform to give their side the best possible chance of winning. With Jadeja coming back from an injury followed by a successful IPL, the Indian side looks difficult to get past.

KEY PLAYERS

Rohit Sharma 

Rohit is the second-highest run-scorer for India in this tournament scoring 1030 runs in 17 innings. He has the highest average of 64.37 among Indian batsmen with four centuries (highest by an Indian this season) and two half-centuries to his name. However, his average against right-arm pace bowlers in this format is as low as 27.54. In addition to this, he has also fallen prey to left-arm spinners six times this season which might be in favor of Patel and Santer-who will try to get the better of him for the third time in this format. With quality swing bowlers like Southee and Boult, the blackcaps should try and get him as soon as possible. In addition to this, Rohit is pretty inexperienced when it comes to playing test cricket in Europe having played just one match before this encounter.

Ajinkya Rahane 

Rahane is the highest run-scorer for India with 1095 runs averaging 43.80. He has six fifties and three centuries to his name. Two of his hundreds have come away from home-the most by an Indian batsman away from home this season. His captaincy in the absence of Kohli has been top-notch and was one of the main reasons for clinching the series against Australia. Moving on, his average against right-arm pacers in England is just 25.38 and in general, is 31.52. He has also struggled against right-arm spinners this season and averages just over 20. With Southee getting him twice this season, the blackcaps will wish they get the better of him once again.

Jasprit Bumrah  

Bumrah away from home has been outstanding this season with 30 wickets, averaging 21.1. He has the second-best bowling figures in an innings with six wickets giving away just 27 runs in 12.1 overs against the West Indies. His strike rate of 9.6 is the lowest in an innings which was also against the Indies where he picked up five wickets in eight overs giving away just seven runs. His average against left-hand batsmen in this format is 16.11 and in this tournament is just 10.75. Given this, New Zealand’s key performers-Latham and Nicholls will have a tough time facing him. Moreover, he has also got the better of New Zealand’s best batsman-Williamson, and the Indians would surely look to exploit his weakness against Bumrah.

Kane Williamson

Captain Kane is the leading run-scorer for his team this season with 817 runs. In terms of average, he is just behind Daryl Mitchell averaging 58.35 although the latter had played just three innings. All his centuries have come at home out of which two were double hundreds coming against West Indies and Pakistan, in that order. His average against right-arm pace bowlers away from home is 27.96 with five ducks in general and is as low as 9.66 this season. He has not fared well against Bumrah averaging just over 4, the latter dismissing him twice in two matches. However, after scoring close to 500 runs last year, he continued his form to score a double century against Pakistan earlier this year and is currently the best Test batsman in the world.

Kyle Jamieson 

Jamieson has been the best performing all-rounder for New Zealand this season with 36 wickets and 226 runs in just six innings. On his debut against India last year, he picked up three crucial wickets of Pujara, Kohli, and Vihari in the first innings. In the very next game, he picked up a five-for and managed to dismiss Pujara once again. His crucial contribution of 49 runs helped New Zealand decrease the margin of India’s lead and since then his form has only gone uphill.

He has picked up at least four wickets in every match that he has bowled with his best figures of 11/117 coming against Pakistan earlier this year. He also has the best average and strike rate of 13.27 and 33.3 respectively among his teammates with four five-fors. His batting average of 56.50 is the third-best in the team. Furthermore, he hasn’t played away from home, however, he can test his skills in foreign conditions in the upcoming series against England.

Tim Southee 

Southee led New Zealand’s pace attack this season with 51 wickets, averaging 20.66 with three five-fors to his name. His best figures in a match were against India when he picked up nine wickets for 110 in 41.1 overs. He has over 300 wickets in this format and has fared equally well against both right-handed and left-handed batsmen averaging just over 25. 31 of his wickets this season have come against right-handed batsmen with an average of 16.09. His experience and ability to swing the ball in both directions in European conditions will be tough to play against. Southee has a great record against key Indian batsmen -Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane dismissing them ten times in four games.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Test team looks like a much stronger side with the likes of the spin duo Ashwin and Jadeja, along with the quality and depth in all departments. However, New Zealand were the only side to win a series against them this season with some quality bowling performances. This gives them a psychological advantage but it isn’t enough to beat the number one Test team in the world. Cricket being a funny game, it all boils down to who plays better cricket and has the grit to survive the ever-demanding format of the game.

Two of the best batsmen of this era lead their side into the first ICC World Test Championship finals to win their maiden ICC trophy as captain. New Zealand are facing India for the second time in the finals of an ICC trophy. The last time they met was back in 2000 when the New Zealand side led by Stephen Fleming defeated India by chasing down a target of 265 runs with two balls to spare and won their first and only ICC trophy-thanks to Chris Cairns for his brilliant century. Will history repeat itself? Let’s wait and watch.