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Ahead of India-NZ world Test cricket final, only 1 Indian, no Kiwi in Boycott’s ‘fantasy’ teams

On the eve of inaugural World Test Championship final, ex-England cricketer Sir Geoffrey Boycott released his ‘fantasy all-time Test teams’. Sachin Tendulkar only Indian to make the cut.

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New Delhi: The final of the inaugural World Test Championship is set to be played between India and New Zealand at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl Friday, but Sachin Tendulkar was the only player from either country to be selected by Sir Geoffrey Boycott in his ‘fantasy’ teams for an ‘all-time WTC final’.

On the eve of the final, former England cricketer and Test batting icon Sir Geoffrey Boycott picked his all-time “fantasy” matchday squads “to produce the ultimate Test match”, on the premise that the two 12-member squads would be facing each other on the same Southampton pitch as India and New Zealand.

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10 Englishmen, 5 Australians, 5 West Indians 

As part of his reasoning, Boycott said he was considering cricketers across eras, but only wanted to compare each player’s statistical record with contemporaries of their era.

Given the nature of the Southampton pitch that can assist spin if the conditions are dry, Boycott selected two spinners each in his matchday squads — two from Australia (Shane Warne and Bill O’Reilly), one from England (Jim Laker) and one from Sri Lanka (Muttiah Muralitharan), although he also gave his “professional opinion” that Muralitharan’s bowling action was illegal. The captains of the two teams are Sir Donald Bradman and Imran Khan.

The bulk of Boycott’s fantasy teams comes from England, West Indies and Australia, although subcontinent cricketers like Muralitharan, Khan and Wasim Akram also made the cut.

Most notably, the countries competing in Friday’s final largely did not find a place in Boycott’s teams, save for Sachin Tendulkar, whom Boycott has described as having “mastered his era and handled the pressure of expectation from India’s fanatical supporters”.

While the English contingent mostly dates back to the late 19th century and pre-World War II with the inclusion of WG Grace, Jack Hobbs and Harold Larwood, the Australian contingent is more modern due to the selections of Warne and Adam Gilchrist.

Boycott didn’t pick any currently active player, either, with the most recent international-level retirements being Tendulkar, Muralitharan and Brian Lara.

While England, Australia and West Indies made up most of Boycott’s all-time great fantasy teams, the current iterations of the three teams have not been as successful. They finished outside of title contention in the World Test Championship table for the 2019-21 cycle, and currently occupy 4th, 3rd and 6th place, respectively, in the ICC Test Rankings.

Previewing today’s final 

The WTC final arrives with both New Zealand and India coming off great runs of form. Both teams defeated England in their most recent respective Test series and currently occupy the top 2 positions in the ICC Test Rankings.

On the eve of the final, India released its starting lineup for the match and selected both its frontline spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, in line with Boycott’s suggestion to adapt to the Southampton pitch.

For New Zealand, the final will also serve as the swansong for wicket-keeper BJ Watling, who will retire from all forms of cricket a few weeks before his 36th birthday.

The next cycle of the World Test Championship is expected to begin later this summer, when Pakistan tour the West Indies for a two-Test series, while India will remain in England to play the latter for five Tests, beginning in early August.

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