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India's XI 'takes the pitch and conditions out of the equation' - India fielding coach R Sridhar

Indications are both teams aren't tweaking plans yet, given they still have five days available to them, but India will take a call on their XI 'if needed' at toss time

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
India's XI for the World Test Championship final has been chosen to "take the pitch and conditions out of the equation", according to their fielding coach, R Sridhar, who said he did not anticipate any changes to the team announced by the BCCI on the eve of the match, despite the first day of the contest being washed out.
The frustration on the opening day of the final, between India and New Zealand in Southampton, was mitigated to a degree by the provision for a reserve sixth day, which will now be triggered in the event that the title cannot be decided in the next four days of play. And for that reason, both Sridhar and Tom Latham, New Zealand's vice-captain, agreed there was little need yet for either side to start formulating alternative plans.
"I was expecting this to be the first question," Sridhar said. "I think the XI which has been announced is the XI which takes the pitch and conditions out of the equation," he added, referring to the team India had named containing two front-line spinners in R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, alongside a trio of quicks in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma. "I think it's an XI which can play and perform on any given surface in any given weather conditions. So that is what I believe this XI is all about, which we will put in the park."
"But having that said, the toss is not yet over, so we will ... if it needs to be taken, there will be a decision taken at the time of the toss."
New Zealand, at this stage, are still keeping their intentions under wraps. Kane Williamson's hopes of recovering from his elbow problem will have been improved by an extra day of rest, after he underwent a cortisone injection earlier in the week, but their main dilemma revolves around the balance of their attack.
The prospect of further damp conditions for the rest of the week may yet persuade New Zealand to omit their spinner, Ajaz Patel, in favour of a five-man seam and swing attack. However, Latham said that all such decisions would have to wait until the covers are removed and the team has a chance to assess the nature of the pitch.
"It probably doesn't change a huge amount," he said of the first-day washout. "For us it's about adapting to whatever conditions we're faced with, whether it's tomorrow or whenever it may be.
"With the extra day that we've got up our sleeve, the game can still go the full five days ... so it's important that we aren't caught on the hop. We've been in this situation many times before as cricketers, and I guess it's about trying to stay ready when we're called upon."
"We haven't confirmed the final XI yet," he added. "I'm sure Kane and Steady [coach Gary Stead] have a few contingencies in place but, as I say, we'll have to wait until the canvas comes off and we get the chance to play."
In the meantime, the challenge for both teams has been to keep their focus on the long-term aim of winning this one-off Test, while at the same time switching off for the short term. Latham admitted that New Zealand's dressing-room had achieved this mainly through the medium of table tennis and darts, but the concurrent Women's Test against England in Bristol had given India's men a separate contest to get stuck into.
"We have not missed a bit of the girls' game right from day one," Sridhar said. "All of us have seen the game. It's been live going on in our rooms, in our team room, in our breakfast area, and even today while we are waiting for the rain to stop. All of us were sitting together and watching the girls' game and encouraging our girls.
"We know they are fighting to get back into the game," he added, after India's 17-year-old opening batter, Shafali Verma, posted her second half-century of the match in response to the team being made to follow on. "We're seeing they put up a strong performance there. We are enjoying the innings from Shafali ... her mindset is so clear."
"Looking at the wicket, we thought maybe we could play the finals there," he joked. "The ball is turning a bit so we're just wondering if we shift the finals from here to Bristol. What do you reckon?"
Sridhar had no doubt, however, that India would have their game faces on when the time comes to get the WTC final underway.
"As motivation goes, I don't think you need to motivate anyone who's representing their country. And in a World Test Championship final, I think there is no further and better motivation than that," he said.
"They are a very, very experienced bunch of players. They have played a few finals, they have won a few tournaments and they've played a few Test matches, each one of them in that XI.
"We've all been very close because most of our time we have always been in the bubble, so there's a great camaraderie in this team," he added. "So passing time amongst us is the easiest thing. The chat and the games that they play is always on."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket