London [UK], June 5 (ANI): Ahead of his side's ICC World Test Championship final against Australia, which will start on June 7 at The Oval, India head coach Rahul Dravid said that his team is looking forward to the title clash after two years of hard work and also talked about in-form batter Cheteshwar Pujara getting some game time in English conditions during the County Championship, saying that being a one-format player is not easy.
Dravid addressed the media in a press conference ahead of the 'Ultimate Test'.
"We are excited and looking forward to it. It has been two years of hard work to get here, with many ups and downs. You aspire to be in top two teams so that you get to play this match," said Dravid.
On Pujara's fine run of form in the County Championship, Dravid said, "We have had conversations with Pujji not only in batting but also on a lot of things because he captains Sussex. He is aware of the fact that he has to keep playing cricket even though he has played a lot of it, except the IPL. It is not easy to be a single-format player. I was one during the fag end of my career."Pujara is currently the highest run-scorer in Division Two of the Championship, having scored 545 runs in eight innings at an average of above 68, with three centuries and a fifty. His best score is 151 across five matches.
Pujara was in fine form for Sussex last year as well. In eight matches last year in the Championship, he scored 1,094 runs at an average of 109.40. He scored five half-centuries last year, with the best score of 231.
He was the fourth-highest run-scorer in the division behind Wayne Madsen (1,273 for Derbyshire), Haseeb Hameed (1,235 for Nottinghamshire) and Sam Northeast (1,189 for Glamorgan).
Pujara also performed really well in the One-Day Cup last year. In nine matches, he scored 624 runs at an average of 89.14 and a strike rate of 111.62. He scored three centuries and two half-centuries and the best score of 174. He led his side to the semi-final of the tournament as a skipper.
On the return of Ajinkya Rahane to the national Test side after two years, Dravid said that injuries helped him get back into the team and they are glad to have someone of his quality back.
"He is a good slip fielder, and has led India to a considerable amount of success," added Dravid.
Rahane has a decent record in England across all formats, having scored 1,148 runs in 26 matches, 40 innings at an average of 29.43. He has two centuries and seven fifties in English conditions, with the best score of 106. In Tests in England, he has scored 729 runs in 15 matches, 29 innings at an average of 26.03, with a century and five fifties.
Rahane last featured in Tests for India in January 2022 and has since been out of favour in the red-ball setup. Before being dropped, Rahane had a horrendous 2021 where he scored just 479 runs in 13 Tests at an average of 20.82. His last Test century came at the MCG in the memorable Border-Gavaskar series of 2020/21 where he captained India's comeback after the dismal 36 all out.
Injury to Shreyas Iyer meant that there was a void to be filled in the middle order and India has backed his experience for the one-off Ultimate Test.
His performances in the Indian Premier League so far as well as his domestic showings have paved the way for a comeback into the side.
Playing for Chennai Super Kings, Rahane was handed a new lease of life, scoring 326 runs in 11 innings at a stunning strike rate of over 172. He scored two half-centuries for the side and played a crucial role in their fifth title win.
Prior to the IPL, he went back to the drawing board in Ranji Trophy and returned 634 runs in seven matches for Mumbai, which included two centuries.
Dravid said that because of WTC, there is a lot of context to bilateral series and teams want to win every match they play.
"Australia and England have played a lot of Tests. We have too played a lot. I would like to see more Tests being played going forward," added Dravid.
The head coach said that a lot of cricket does not happen in June historically in England.
"Cricket is usually played at the end of the summer in England as stats, data suggest. Wickets are more tired, and different. But we have to react to it and we hope we have those resources and abilities to do so," added Dravid.
Dravid termed Australian veteran opener David Warner as a "quality player".
David has struggled in the longer format during last two years or so, recording just one century - his epic 200 on Boxing Day last summer - and 18 scores of 15 or less in 32 innings. He has scored just 36 runs in three Tests in four innings this year, with best score of 15.
On a concluding note, Dravid said that his team has done well in England in the past.
"It is different than India but there is not much of a difference. Our boys have done well here in different conditions. We also do different preparations for slip fielding. Whatever will happen will happen in five days. The team that does well in these five days will win and if we do that then I am hopeful that we can win it," concluded the coach.
Australia ended at the top of the WTC table with 11 wins, three losses, five draws in 19 matches whereas India ended in second position with 10 wins, five losses and three draws.
India's squad for WTC final: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan (wk).
Suryakumar Yadav, Mukesh Kumar and Yashasvi Jaiswal have been named as stand-by players for the high-stakes match.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wk), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David WarnerStandby players: Mitch Marsh, and Matthew Renshaw. (ANI)