Australia slight favourites for WTC final but don’t underestimate value of IPL preparation: Chappell

New Delhi: Ian Chappell feels the potency of Australia’s pace attack in English conditions will give them the edge in next month’s World Test Championship final against India, who could be “badly affected” by the absence of injured Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant.

Shreyas Iyer and K L Rahul are another two Indian players who have been ruled out off the June 7-11 final due to injuries.

Chappell also said injury-prone Hardik Pandya not playing red-ball cricket also harms India. Hardik last played a first class game in 2018.

“The injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant badly affect India, as they would be outright favourites with these two playing.

“The somewhat surprising unavailability of allrounder Hardik Pandya also harms India, as he could have provided them with the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle,” Chappell wrote in a column for ESPNcricinfo.

Majority of the Indian players go into the final after two months of IPL but Chappell feels that might not negatively impact them after all.

“As it should be, this is a hard match to predict. That’s mainly because of injury concerns and neither team having played a Test since completing a hard-fought series earlier this year.

“To make matters even more difficult, many of the players involved have only competed in the IPL in the lead-up to the one-off Test.

“While this may not seem to be the ideal preparation, it’s worth recalling the opinion of former England batter Ravi Bopara. In 2009, Bopara went from the fledgling IPL into a Test series against West Indies and reckoned he was ideally prepared because T20 got his feet moving and put him in a positive frame of mind,” he said referring to Bopara’s successive hundreds in the Caribbean.

Chappell also reckons Australia’s pace attack is just ahead of India while the Rohit Sharma led side has the upper hand in the spin department.

“If Australia’s classy pace trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are available, that makes them slight favourites. They are good bowlers any time, but England in early June should be right up their alley.

“Nevertheless, an Indian pace attack containing Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav is also strong and only just behind the Australian trio in wicket-taking capability.”

Mental strength will hold the key in a one-off Test, said the former Australian captain.

“The team that displays the most resilience is likely to win as long as the contest is not unduly affected by bad weather. Being able to maintain a decent line and length under attack is now mandatory in the tougher series, and a fully fit Australian attack should benefit if the opposition are overzealous,” Chappell said.

“Therefore much will depend on how the batters treat the talented opposing pace attacks. Australia rely heavily on Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja’s big scoring ability but the enigmatic David Warner shouldn’t be overlooked.

“On the Indian side Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara are a handful because they have enjoyed success in Test cricket. Their job will be tough against a strong Australian attack.

“The Australian bowlers also need to pay careful attention to Shubman Gill. He tends to play with no fear and has a stroke-making mentality, which will not change even on this momentous occasion.”

Considering the conditions, he said Australia are slight favourites.

“With the match being played under English conditions, this slightly favours the strong Australian pace attack. However, as Bopara showed, you should never underestimate the value of IPL preparation for batters.”