'Why cannot it be March?' - Rohit questions WTC final scheduling and venue

Fans click pictures of Rohit Sharma as he walks out to bat
June 11, 2023

After a second successive loss in the World Test Championship (WTC) final, India captain Rohit Sharma has said future finals should be played outside England, and not necessarily be scheduled for June.

Asked whether a WTC final will always be trickier to handle because it takes place after the IPL, Rohit said it didn't have to be that way.

"Why after the IPL final? Why cannot it be March? June is not the only month we should play the final," Rohit said. "It can be played any time of the year and anywhere in the world, not just in England, it can be played anywhere in the world."

Rohit was speaking after his side lost the final at The Oval to Australia by 209 runs. Two years ago, in June 2021, they were beaten by New Zealand by eight wickets in a rain-hit final played at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The 2025 final is also scheduled to be played at Lord's.

India had little time to acclimatise in England this time round, having arrived straight off the IPL - and in talking about his bowlers, Rohit spoke specifically of needing greater time to prepare, to transition from T20 to Test cricket. In 2021 they arrived earlier and fresher, but only because the IPL that year was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, stopping in early May before resuming in the UAE in September.

Rohit even linked the kind of team that he would like to build for the next cycle at least in part to where the final might be played. Responding to an earlier question, he said, "I want to see where the next WTC final is being played as well. That depends where we play, based on that we will decide what sort of players we want to get ready and what kind of cricket we want to play."

The question of where and when the WTC final is held if not England is, of course, trickier in a calendar that is stretched to breaking point at the moment. The addition of three new domestic T20 leagues in the UAE, South Africa and - next month - in the US means international cricket is facing a squeeze like never before.

A move away from June would require not only finding another window, but also, potentially, a rejig of the international cycle as agreed upon in the Future Tours Programme (FTP) last year.

The next eight-year cycle of international cricket sees four WTC finals, in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031. The venues for the finals - barring the 2025 WTC final - have not been decided yet and though England is not locked in as a venue, it has thus far been seen among full members and the ICC as a natural choice of location. The northern hemisphere summer offers an ideal endpoint to a two-year cycle and in England there is the guarantee of strong crowds.

"The way the cycle is set up we are always going to be playing it in the northern hemisphere summer," ICC's general manager Wasim Khan had said, speaking before the final.

"Southampton initially, then we looked at everything from making sure we provide diverse venues as it stands within England. Lord's was considered but the decision was made on The Oval for this. In terms of where they get played, in terms of the final right now, the UK suits the set-up of the tournament itself. It falls in line with northern hemisphere."

Rohit also added his voice to calls for the final to be played as a best-of-three series, echoing the view of Virat Kohli, the defeated India captain in the last final as well, more recently, as David Warner.

"I would love that [a three-match final]," Rohit said. "But is there a time? That's the big question. Honestly, in a big event like this you need to have fair opportunities for both the teams.

"A three-match series would be nice but it's about finding that window, where it can fit in. An event like this you work hard for two years and then you only have one shot at it. It's not really - you cannot get into that momentum that you need in Test cricket. Test cricket is all about finding that rhythm, finding that momentum as well. I think yeah, if in the next cycle if it is possible, three-match series would be ideal."

Unsurprisingly, the winning captain was happy with the concept as it stands.

"I think it's fine," Pat Cummins said. "No qualms. I think ideally you'd have 50-match series but the Olympics have come down to one race to win a gold medal. AFL, NRL seasons have finals. That's sport."

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