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Virat Kohli calls for best-of-three finals to decide future World Test Championships

India captain acknowledges NZ were the better side but says great Tests come in series

Nagraj Gollapudi
Virat Kohli, India's captain, admitted that New Zealand are the deserving winners of the inaugural World Test Championship, but has called for future editions of the tournament - which is contested over a two-year cycle - to be decided in series comprising a minimum of three Tests between the two finalists.
"I am not in absolute agreement of deciding the best Test side in the world over the course of one game," Kohli said in the wake of his team's eight-wicket loss in Southampton.
"If it is a Test series, it has to be a test of character over three Tests - which team has the ability to come back in the series, or totally blow away the other team. It can't just be pressure applied over two days of good cricket and then you suddenly you are not a good Test side anymore. I don't believe in it."
Kohli was expanding on the point he had made on the eve of the final, when he had said victory or defeat in the one-off final would not carry too much significance for his team. The best-of-three final was suggested by Indian head coach Ravi Shastri in a recent interview, and Kohli today added more flesh to that argument.
"It has to be a hard grind and something that definitely needs to be worked around in the future," he said. "At the end of three matches, where there's effort, there's ups and downs, there's situations changing during the course of the series, a chance to rectify the things you have done in the first game, and then really see who is the better side over the course of a three-match series or something, will be a good measure of how things really are.
"So we are not too bothered by this result because we understand as a Test side what we have done over the last 3-4 years, not just over the last 18 months. So this is not a measure of who we are as a team [with] the ability and the potential we have had for so many years now."
Despite days one and four of the WTC final being washed out, the match reached a riveting climax on the reserve day, with several stand-out performers including the Player of the Match Kyle Jamieson, his captain Kane Williamson, and Tim Southee, who claimed four second-innings wickets. For India, Mohammad Shami was outstanding in New Zealand's first innings, while Rishabh Pant's inventive counterattacking on the final afternoon helped post an eventual target of 139.
Asked if he believed that the quality of the cricket on display could help make the case for a best-of-three final in the future, Kohli responded with a categorical yes.
"Absolutely. If you saw the way the game went, with whatever time we got on the field, why wouldn't you want to see two more Tests of the same teams battling it out and, eventually, being the worthy winners of the World Test Championship?
"Historically all the great series that you've seen in Test cricket, you remember them over a period of three matches or five matches perhaps, with two teams going against each other and those series become memorable.
"This definitely has to be brought in. I'm not saying this because we're not on the winning side, but just for Test cricket and for this saga to be absolutely memorable, it has to happen over a period of three games minimum, so that you have a series to remember.
"There are going to be ups and downs throughout, with two quality sides going at each other, knowing that there's so much on the line."
New Zealand's captain, Kane Williamson - for whom the WTC crown was a maiden global title after World Cup final defeats in 2015 and 2019 - acknowledged Kohli's argument, but believed a one-off final still had its attraction.
"I suppose the exciting part to finals is that anything can happen," Williamson said in response to Kohli's comments. "We know how fickle cricket is and we've seen it in other competitions, in other World Cups and in all other bits and pieces.
"The one-off factor does bring a unique dynamic, which does make it exciting and all these sorts of things, and on any given day anything can happen. We've been on all different sides of that statement."
On the eve of the final, ICC's acting chief executive officer Geoff Allardice had told ESPNcricinfo that the one hurdle to hosting anything like a best-of-three WTC final would be the absence of any window in an already choking cricket calendar. Williamson agreed.
"I suppose there's arguments for both sides, and I guess the challenge would be scheduling that series among a lot of cricket that's already on, but no doubt, the more cricket that you have within a series, the more you do find out and the more it does reveal itself.
"But in the same way it was a really exciting match. It's the first time that there's been this competition on, and both teams were fully geared for the game, and it was a brilliant game of cricket."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo