Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
India believe the World Test Championship should be decided in a best-of-three series, a fitting finale after two years of hard work around the world. The inaugural WTC final is a one-off Test between India and New Zealand, for which India left for England on June 2. Coach Ravi Shastri said he could understand the constraints of a busy calendar, but hoped the final going forward will be a three-Test series.
"Ideally, in the long run, if they want to persist with the Test Championship, a best-of-three final will be ideal. As a culmination of two-and-a-half years of cricket around the globe. Going forward, best of three will be ideal, but we have got to finish it as quickly as possible because the FTP will start all over again."
Shastri, however, said this match was the "biggest". "It's the first time you have a Test Championship final," Shastri said. "When you look at that and the magnitude of the game that is going to be played, I think this is the biggest. If not the biggest ever. Because it is the toughest format of the game. It is a format that tests you. It has not happened over three days, or three months. It has happened over two years. Where teams have played each other around the world and earned their stripes to play the final. So it is one heck of an event."
Captain Virat Kohli agreed with his coach. "This holds a lot of value," he said. "Especially this being the first of its kind. And in the toughest format. All of us take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket and the way we have progressed as a side is an example of what Test cricket means to us. For all of us as a unit, those who have been part of the Test side for many years, this is like the accumulation of all the hard work time of not just the duration of the championship but the last five-six years. Since the time we started coming up the ranks and building up a side. We are very very happy to play the final."
Kohli: Mental health a huge factor that shouldn't be neglected
It can then seem unfair on either side to have the championship decided over one Test, but Shastri and Kohli said the final wouldn't change what their side has done over the last few years.
"One off is a one off, and the guys have earned their stripes," Shastri said. "This is not a team that has blossomed overnight. Five years No. 1. When you start being on top or playing cricket at the highest level or competing against the best, you have the ability to pull yourselves out of tough situations. As you have seen time and time again, there have been many times when this side has pulled itself out of big problems and gone on to win series. So I think the final is a great victory for the boys really."
Kohli said he didn't look at the final or the England Test series that follows as a destination or a final frontier. "I don't think that there is any frontier for us," Kohli said. "If you look at our transition, the transition was smooth for us. Because we are really committed to keeping Indian cricket on top. Being the best team in the world. We have continued to do that. In Test cricket we have finished No. 1 for a few years in a row.
"Now you see youngsters coming in so there is another transition going on within the team so I don't think this is the final frontier and after this we have no idea where to go. This is an ongoing process to keep the standard of Indian cricket high and we have done our duty for the last five-six years with absolute commitment. Now in the transition phase, our responsibility is to instil the same passion and commitment in the next lot of players so we remain on top for more years to come. And that's how the progress of cricket really happens.
"We have worked hard for the finals. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that we were probably going to be the first team to be featuring in that final because of the way we have played last few years. For us it is just about keeping those standards high. It's like football. If you win one championship, you don't stop working hard. You wanna win two and three and four. This is exactly our mindset. If you have made the final once, we absolutely want to win it. Then restructure, plan, move ahead for the next three-four years and again plan to be the top side in the world."
India have been among the best sides in all formats for a while now, but haven't won an ICC title since 2013. Two of their recent heartbreaks have come in England when they lost the Champions Trophy final in 2017 and the World Cup semi-final in 2019 after looking like the best side in those tournaments. Kohli said his side will not take any pressure from that but look to enjoy the final.
"There is no challenge for me," Kohli said. "From the team's point of view, we have been through a challenging period. Now is the time to enjoy. We have worked hard for the last five-six years. We don't think like people on the outside. If we start thinking like that, we will not be able to perform."