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Virat Kohli: 'Championship final just another Test match'

Virat Kohli: 'Championship final just another Test match'
© Reuters
India face New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl.

India captain Virat Kohli chose the eve of the inaugural World Test Championship final to pour cold water on the concept, suggesting a one-off winner holds little value "for people who really understand the game".

Kohli's side will begin their showpiece clash against New Zealand on Friday at the Ageas Bowl, with the winner becoming the sport's first ever 'Test champions' as well as banking £1.16million in prize money.

It is the culmination of a two-year qualification process, but the idea itself has been doing the rounds for much longer having been dreamed up as a way to boost the relevance and the buzz around the traditional five-day format.

Kohli, who brings A-list glamour and the small matter of 127million Instagram followers in his wake, is just the kind of frontman the International Cricket Council would have hoped for but his pre-match appearance was a curiously low-key venture.

Rather than fan the flames of an event, he instead appeared to undermine the very nature of the winner-takes-all shootout.

"If you're talking about Test cricket and deciding who is the best team in the world on one game over a period of five days, that is not the reality of the truth," he said.

"It is not going to reflect anything for people who really understand the game and who know exactly what has gone on over the last four or five years and how the teams have fared. If you win this game, cricket does not stop for us; if you lose this game, cricket does not stop for us.

"For me, this is another Test match that has to be played. I think these things are very exciting from the outside...it sort of becomes 'do or die'. For us as a team, we have been on a quest for excellence for a while now and we will continue to be on that path regardless of what happens in this game."

Kohli's side have undoubtedly been the form team in red-ball cricket for an extended period of time and finished top of a WTC table eventually settled on points average after fixture disruption caused by Covid-19.

And yet, they have also been usurped by the Black Caps in the ICC's world rankings, making the idea of a head-to-head settler on neutral soil an attractive proposition, even among those who do understand the game.

In mere population terms it represents a clear David versus Goliath match-up, with over 1.3billion Indians and just under 5million Kiwis, and the financial power of the cricketing boards is similarly skewed.

But Kohli took issue with the oft-repeated notion that New Zealand come in as the 'nice guys' of world cricket.

"I really don't understand this term that was just used – I don't think any other team has 'bad guys' in their team," he said.

"We get along very well off the field but when you step across the line, it's business at the end of the day and you need to deal with it accordingly. It's pretty serious stuff out there, it's not something that is fun and games and played in a very low voltage environment.

"This is a huge game, a huge Test match and we are certainly looking forward to the opportunity we have been waiting for for a few years now."

Kohli's opposite number Kane Williamson, who declared himself fully fit after resting an elbow injury for last week's victory over England, offered a more enthusiastic assessment of the challenge ahead.

  1. India (72.3%)
  2. New Zealand (70%)
  3. Australia (69.2%)
  4. England (61.4%)
  5. Pakistan (43.3%)

"We're playing the best team in the world. It's a really exciting occasion," he said.

"It's incredible. I suppose you have both teams coming to a neutral venue, it's unique, an exciting occasion that both teams are looking forward to starting.

"It's a one-off and in cricket anything can happen. It will be widely followed and fans from more than just New Zealand and India are excited to watch it unfold. We're just fortunate to be involved in it."

India named their XI a day ahead of time, despite the likelihood of rain on Friday, with Mohammed Siraj and Hanuma Vihari overlooked. New Zealand will make a late call on their side.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina22131247
United StatesUnited States19201352
JapanJapan175830
AustraliaAustralia1331430
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151238
Great BritainGreat Britain9101231
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events


GOLF
· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

CYCLING - BMX
· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

SWIMMING
· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

TENNIS
· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

SAILING
· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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