Predicting the playing 11’s in ICC World Test Championship Final 2021

Statistics Society - USJ
12 min readJun 16, 2021


Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson
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Authors: Savindu Kodikara, Charith Eranda, Minindu Karunasena,
Janith Wanniarachchi, Thisaakhya Jayakody

This data for this article is contained in the Appendix which has been moved to this link to ensure a shorter reading time.

Background of ICC World Test Championship

The ICC World Test Championship is a league competition for Test cricket, run by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The first inaugural match started on the 1st of August 2019, where nine test playing nations competed for the championship. Prior to the inaugural match the ICC World Test Championship was scheduled to be held in 2013 by replacing the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. However due to financial issues within the board and commitments to the sponsors and broadcasters, the WTC was postponed to the year 2017. The hosts of the 2013 championship, England and Wales were awarded the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. In 2017 the championship was postponed yet again due to various reasons and the 2017 ICC Championship Trophy took the place of the World Test Championship for that year as well.

Amidst all these hurdles, the first tournament began with the 2019 Ashes series in August. Yet again the championship faced another hurdle as in March 2020, matches were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not resuming before July 2020, with several rounds of matches being postponed or ultimately being cancelled.

Initially the ICC decided to take the top 4 teams and winners for the semifinals and finals respectively, but in the 2019 tournament the top two teams were chosen to play for the finals. The top teams were to be selected to the finals based on the points, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of the series got cancelled and postponed. The postponed series couldn’t be played because the ICC had fixed the date for the final in the beginning. All 9 teams should have played 6 series comprising 3 home series and 3 away series, but some of the teams couldn’t play all the series as per plan due to various restrictions.

Therefore the ICC introduced a new method to choose the top two teams. The method consisted of taking the percentage points that the team got from the played matches and the maximum points that they should have obtained from the played matches where one series carried 120 points in this tournament.

The following table shows how points were given to teams with the number of matches in that particular series. New Zealand became the first team to qualify to the finals, when it was confirmed that the series between South Africa and Australia would not proceed. Later India joined with New Zealand to play the final match in Rose Bowl, Southampton after winning the England series 3–1.

Final point table is given in Figure 1.

The ICC World Test Championship final will be played between New Zealand and India from 18th June to 22nd June 2021 at Rose Bowl, Southampton, England. 23rd June was reserved as an extra day for the final match. In the event of a draw both the teams will emerge as the joint champions. The question at hand is , “Who will the two teams comprise of for the final match?”. To make a conclusion, a thorough understanding of the performances of the players of both teams is crucial. In this article we explore different criterias to select the best team for both sides using a statistical descriptive analysis.

Data Collection

To analyze the player performance data was collected based on 4 criteria: overall performance, performance in matches between New Zealand and India, performance in matches played at England venues and performance in the world test championship matches. The data was collected from the ESPNcricinfo website.

The reasoning behind the gathering of data based on the four criteria is to quantify several dimensions and variables of player performance. Overall data was collected to understand how good the player performed in the test arena. Performances in matches played against the opposing team was taken to identify whether there are any players who specially performed better against their respective opponents.

Subsequently, performances in matches played at England were taken to identify players who did really well in the England pitches. The pitch plays an important role in cricket as it affects the batting and bowling sides both. Each pitch affects players differently. Even though some players might fail to play well in some pitches they can perform contrastingly better in other pitches. For example, suppose a certain player plays really well against spin (Spin bowling is a bowling technique in cricket, in which the ball is delivered slowly but with the potential to deviate sharply after bouncing), but struggles against seam (Seam bowling is a bowling technique in cricket whereby the ball is deliberately bowled on to its seam, to cause a random deviation when the ball bounces). Hence that particular player will play really well in Asian conditions but that player will struggle in seam conditions like England, Australia and New Zealand. Since the world test championship will be played in England, the data on the performance of matches played in England venues were taken into consideration

Finally the data on the performance in the World Test Championship was considered to identify the recent form of the players. This is because some players might have played really well in the past but that player might be performing poorly in recent matches.

When collecting the data, different methods were deployed according to the type of each player. The batting records of the specialized batsman and both the batting and bowling records of the specialized bowlers were collected. Furthermore the average difference between the batting and bowling average was collected in addition to the batting and bowling records from the all rounders. This is calculated because the all-rounders should perform both with bat and bowl. Hence the specific player’s batting average should be high and bowling average should be low. Therefore if that player is a good all-rounder the average difference should be a positive value. The average difference wasn’t collected from the bowlers because the teams are expecting only to get wickets from their specialized bowlers. The data collected on the players from both teams are given in Appendix A from Table 4 to Table 37.

Head to Head Series Results

In detail series results can be found under Appendix B and a summary of the series results are given in Table 2.

According to Table 2, India has a good record against New Zealand in the past. Both teams were very good in their own backyards in recent times. That can be clarified from the table under the series results.

About Rose Bowl, Southampton

Rose bowl cricket stadium also formerly known as the Ageas Bowl West End was established in 2001 and has the capacity to hold 6500 spectators and 20,000 spectators with temporary seating. With all the necessary facilities including floodlights the Rose Bowl cricket ground is gaining traction slowly.

Matches and Results

The data on the matches played in the Rose bowl and their results are in Appendix C.

Looking at the pitch conditions of the ground, teams will tend to go with 6 batsmen, 2 all-rounders and 3 bowlers. By looking at the most wickets table given in Table 40 of Appendix C, we can observe that spinners such as Moeen Ali are among the leading wicket takers. Hence for the 5 bowling options ,teams will select at least one spinner because the pitches will start to spin on from day 4 onwards.Moreover teams will try to select at least 3 seamers. Based on the pitch, the remaining bowling option will be selected by teams.

Player Performances of New Zealand and India

A high batting average indicates that a batsman is good while a low bowling average indicates that the bowler is good. In the case of all-rounders, the best players are those who have high positive values for average difference.

New Zealand

Figure 2: Batting Averages of players in the New Zealand team

In this section only the specialized batsmen are considered for selection, and from them only 6 batsmen including the wicket keeper are selected for the final 11.

Candidate Pool: Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell ,BJ Watling

From the candidate pool Kane Williamson has an average that is greater than the other players and therefore will be a good addition to the team. When considering Devin Conway, Based on the data in the Appendix it can be seen that he has played only 2 innings and he has already scored a double hundred at the England pitches. With an average over hundred there is a high probability of him playing for the finals. Tom Latham has a decent average with respect to other players which will secure a spot for him on the final team. Henry Nicholls has decent batting averages except for the average against India. Therefore, it’s doubtful that he’ll be selected to the final team. In the case of Ross Taylor, his averages are also quite good compared to the rest of the players. Therefore he should be included in the final team. Finally we have BJ Watling, who has high averages in other cases except for the batting average in WTC and is the lowest among the batsmen in the candidate pool. Even though he’s a wicket keeper, Tom Blundell who is also a wicket keeper has a finer average than BJ Watling. Therefore it’s best to assign the wicket keeping duties to Tom Bundell. Now the final decision is between Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling. Even though Henry Nicholls had a very low average against India he has only played 5 innings against them. On the contrary, BJ Watling has played 15 innings in WTC yet he has a very low average. This means in recent times BJ Watling was not in very good form with the bat. Therefore Henry Nicholls will be included in the playing 11 for finals

Selected Players: Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell (wk),Henry Nicholls

Figure 3: Difference between batting and bowling average of players in the New Zealand team

Candidate Pool: Mitchell Santner, Daryll Mitchell, Kyle Jamieson, Colin de Grandhomme

Only 2 all round players will be selected from the candidate pool and from them it is clear that Kylie Jamieson has the best average difference. The next players with the highest average difference are Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme. Even though Neil Wagner is a specialized bowler, his high average difference makes him worthy of comparison with Colin de Grandhomme. Colin de Grandhomme has a small positive value for average difference and Neil Wagner has small negative value for average difference. Furthermore, Colin de Grandhomme has a better batting average compared to Neil Wagner. For those reasons Colin de Grandhomme was included in the final playing 11

Selected Players: Kyle Jamieson, Colin de Grandhomme

Figure 4: Bowling Averages of the players in the New Zealand team

Candidate Pool: Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel

The best 3 bowlers are taken from the candidate pool. Considering the low bowling averages of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagnerbe based on the data in the appendix we can conclude that these three players are fast bowlers. If all three of them were selected then there would be no spinner in the final playing 11. The need for a spinner arises because the ground starts to spin from the 4th day onwards. Hence one of the fast bowlers will have to be dropped and a spinner should be added. Tim Southee has the lowest bowling average amongst them and hence should be added to the team. Both Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have similar kinds of bowling averages. However since Trent Boult’s bowling average in England is better than all the bowlers in the graph he shall be added to the team. For the final spot ,one of the 2 spinners have to be selected. By looking at the graph we can observe that Ajaz Patel has the lowest bowling average amongst the two of them. With that Ajaz Patel is added to the team and the final 11 is complete.

Selected Players: Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel


Figure 5: Batting Averages of the players in the Indian Team

Candidate Pool: Rishab Pant, Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane

Similar to the case of New Zealand, 6 batsmen including a wicket keeper will be needed. As Rishab Pant is the only wicket keeper from the candidate pool he is definitely needed for the final team. Now there are 5 positions left and 6 batsmen are available for selection. It would be easier to select the player that would be dropped from the remaining 6 players. As a starting point we could select Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal as these two players have worse batting averages compared to the other players. Based on the data in the appendix it can be seen that from the 14 matches he has played most of them are in India, which is where he has scored the highest as well. However his average against New Zealand is not that good compared to Shubman. Which would lead to the idea that he is a good player in Indian conditions. As mentioned earlier South Asian countries tend to have pitches that are made for spin more than fast balls while countries like New Zealand and England are made for fast balls rather than spin balls. Hence it can also be concluded that the Mayank would be having difficulties scoring for fast balls compared to spins as well. On the other hand, Shubman Gill has played only 7 matches and has an average greater than 50. One of the reasons for his average dropping is that he failed to score in the England series in India. Hence it would be best to add Shubman Gill in the final 11.

Selected Players: Rishab Pant, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane

Figure 6: Differences of bowling and batting averages of players in the Indian Team

Candidate Pool: Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin

Plot of average difference for India was taken to choose the best 2 all-rounders. The player with the best average difference is Ravindra Jadeja. Therefore, he was included in the final playing 11. The next two players with the best average difference are Washinton Sundar and Shardul Thakur. Washinton Sundar has played only 4 matches and Shardul Thakur has played only 2 matches. Both haven’t played against New Zealand and In England. For that reason Ravichandran Ashwin was selected for the final playing 11. He is the 4th ranked all-rounder in the world currently and he is not far behind Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur in the case of average differences as well. That’s why he was chosen into the final playing 11.

Selected Players: Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin

Figure 7: Bowling Averages of the players in the Indian Team

Candidate Pool: Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav

The Plot of bowling average for New Zealand was taken to choose the best 3 bowlers. Only bowlers were taken for the analysis. All-rounders were neglected. Jasprit Bumrah has the best bowling average. So he was selected for the final playing 11. Ishant Sharma has the best bowling average in WTC. Therefore for the form he is in, he should be selected for the final playing 11. Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur have good bowling averages.However, the fact that they have played fewer matches than other bowlers and the fact that they haven’t played in England nor against New Zealand , makes the probability of them being selected to the final 11 low. The battle is between Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav for the final spot in the playing 11. Both of them have good averages in WTC. Since Umesh Yadav did not have a better bowling average against New Zealand, Mohammed Shami should be selected for the final playing 11.

Selected Players: Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami

Predicted Playing 11's

Conclusions and future work

This analysis was done based on the data from the ESPNcricInfo Website. The predictions are based on the contextual information and domain knowledge. Therefore predictions discussed in the article might not be the most accurate. There are more ways to extend this analysis by using Bayesian methods to determine a prior for the batting and bowling averages and update them accordingly to get a better estimate of the actual average.

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