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Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson set to renew captaincy rivalry in WTC final

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When India captain Virat Kohli and New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson take field for the World Test Championship (WTC) final on June 18, they will renew a captaincy rivalry that goes back 13 years, to the 2008 under-19 World Cup semi-final.

Kohli came out winner in that duel, and India eventually won the World Cup by beating South Africa in the final.

Since then, however, Williamson has grown in experience and earned accolades for his leadership whereas Kohli has earned honours as well as brickbats at the helm.

The last time the two had faced off in an ICC tournament was in the 50-over 2019 World Cup semi-final. Williamson trumped his India rival as he used his bowlers well to defend a 239-run total.

Former Australia speedster Brett Lee has said in an interview with the International Cricket Council (ICC) that the WTC final would be a clash of two styles of captaincy. He said that while Williamson is calm, Kohli is all aggression.

On Monday, former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin echoed Lee’s views.

“I don’t like to compare captains or players. Both Kohli and Williamson are different and have been successful. Both have done well for their countries,” Azharuddin told IANS on Monday.

“Williamson has done well for himself and his team with whatever resources he has had. He has got a lot of class. He is magnanimous. Even when he loses the game, he is always generous like we saw in the 2019 World Cup final loss to England. Any other captain would have lost cool and lashed out but he stayed calm and accepted the defeat,” he said.

New Zealand lost to England in a thriller during the World Cup final. With even the Super Over ending as a tie, England won the final and trophy on boundary count.

England had taken the game to Super Over, thanks to a piece of luck when a throw from Martin Guptill in the last over hit Ben Stokes and was deflected to the boundary for four.

Williamson, however, stayed calm and did not lash out in anger after the final.

“He is not aggressive like Kohli but he gets the job done,” said Azhar.

Azhar said that while both have used their resources well, Kohli is different in his style and has the advantage of a very good side.

“Kohli is different. He has got the team he knows. He has got good bowlers. Both have done well for their countries,” said Azhar further.

The 32-year-old current skipper is already India’s most successful captain having led the country to 36 wins in 60 Tests. That is a winning percentage of 60, a shade better than Williamson’s 58.33 as captain.

Despite the record, critics have questioned Kohli’s selections in playing XI especially in overseas Tests. His penchant for changing the playing XI regularly has been blamed for often letting India down.

In South Africa in 2018 and in England 2018, some of the selections are believed to have led to crucial defeats for India.

Conversely, his backing of some of the youngsters has fired up players to perform. He had led India to their first-ever Test series win in Australia 2018-19 and although Ajinkya Rahane repeated the feat earlier this year, coach Ravi Shastri said Kohli had played a key role in instilling self-belief.

Williamson, on the other hand, has led his country in 36 Tests and won 21 of those. The Kiwis have lost eight Tests under him. Except for one, all the losses under him have come overseas.

Although the 21 Tests he has won for New Zealand are second to 28 under Stephen Fleming, his winning percentage of 58.33 is by far the best for any Kiwi captain. Fleming’s win percentage was just 35.

Kohli though has a better record as batsman in England. He has scored 727 across 20 innings at 36.35 while Williamson has 261 runs in 10 innings at an average of 26.1 in England. In fact, in the first Test against England that ended on Sunday, Williamson got 14 across two innings.

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Laxman finally agrees to head NCA: Sources

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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has managed to convince former cricketer VVS Laxman to head the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, sources said.

After Rahul Dravid took over the post of Indian team’s head coach, there were reports that Laxman might be appointed as a new head of NCA.

However, later it was said that the former batter “is uninterested”. But now he is ready to take the charge after the BCCI officials held a meeting with him in Dubai.

“There were some issues and it has been sorted out. The board wanted him to take the reponsibility and he is the right man to come in place of Dravid,” sources said.

It is also learnt that Laxman has also agreed to leave the lucrative commentary career for the NCA.

“Laxman is currently mentor of IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad, apart from being a commentator and cricket analyst. And he will leave it all for NCA now.”

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Everyone had written us off; we are here to rectify that: Finch

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Australian captain Aaron Finch has conceded that not winning the ICC T20 World Cup title so far has been a sore point with the Kangaroos and the final against New Zealand later on Sunday is the “best opportunity to rectify that”.

The closest Australia came to winning the T20 World Cup was during the 2010 edition held in the West Indies, where they lost to England by seven wickets.

“It’s one that’s eluded us in the past, and the fact that we are here in the final gives us the best opportunity to rectify that. Yeah, I think it will be a great game against New Zealand. They are a great side and they have been in all the finals over the last six years. Looking forward to it,” said Finch ahead of the title clash.

Finch added that despite critics writing his team off, the way the players had gone about their business was heartening.

“Everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We’re really confident the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together. Yeah, I think it hasn’t defied expectation. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we’ve got the squad to do that.

“Well, I think the spirit among the team… and that’s been really impressive the way we’ve gone about our business. Everyone has prepared really well. Everyone has had a really defining match or match-defining performance at some point. The guys are really up and about for the final,” said Finch.

Finch added that batting stalwart Steve Smith’s form wasn’t a concern despite the fact that the former skipper has been unimpressive so far in the tournament, and the team management has drawn flak for persisting with him.

“No, not concerned one bit about his (Smith) form. He’s a world-class player and he’s someone in big games has showed how valuable he is. He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no, no concerns there whatsoever.”

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It’s been happening for long; India don’t have mental strength: Gambhir

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After the crushing eight-wicket defeat against New Zealand, former India opener Gautam Gambhir has slammed the Virat-Kohli-led side, saying that they have the skills but lack the much-needed mental toughness to win big knockout games in ICC tournaments.

India have succumbed to pressure and lost two successive matches, against Pakistan and New Zealand, in the ongoing 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup.

According to Gambhir, the Indian team has the skills but they lack the mental strength to win important games in ICC events.

“Yes talent is one thing; you’ve got all the skills and do really well in bilaterals and stuff. But when it comes to these kinds of games and tournaments, this is when you have got to stand up and perform,” said Gambhir on ESPNCricinfo.

”This game was literally like a quarterfinal. The problem is with the mental toughness of the side. Suddenly when you know you have got to win the game and can’t make mistakes, in bilaterals it’s different because you can make mistakes there. But in these kinds of games, I don’t think India has got that mental strength,” he added.

The former opener, who is often remembered for his two match-winning knocks for India in the finals of the 2007 T20 World Cup and 50-over mega-event in 2011, felt that someone should have put his hand up when it mattered most for the team.

“They have the skill and are a very dangerous side. But, unfortunately, we can keep talking about it that we need to stand by our team when it’s not doing well but it’s been a trend and it’s been happening for a very long time in most of these ICC tournaments, whether it’s the semifinals or the game (against New Zealand on October 31) as well. When it mattered the most for someone to put his hand up, they just couldn’t,” said Gambhir.

Meanwhile, Gambhir’s opening partner Virender Sehwag mentioned that India’s body language wasn’t great in the game against New Zealand and they need some serious introspection.

”Very disappointing from India. NZ were amazing. India’s body language wasn’t great, poor shot selection and like few times in the past, New Zealand have virtually ensured we won’t make it to the next stage. This one will hurt India and time for some serious introspection #IndvsNZ, ” Sehwag said in a tweet.

India have three matches remaining in the tournament and another loss will confirm their early exit from the competition. The Men in Blue will have to win their remaining matches by big margins to ensure their net run rate can be improved and they stand a chance at qualifying.

They will next face Afghanistan in their third match on November 3 in Abu Dhabi in the hope of turning their campaign around in the mega event.

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