India and Australia face off in four-match Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the contest starting with the opening match at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium (VCA) starting here on Thursday.
There are a lot of things at stake in the four-match series as Australia have not won a series in India since 2004 and India hoping to maintain their domination at home.
But underlining the contest between the two countries is an intense battle for the spots in the World Test Championship Final, to be played later this year.
The ICC on Wednesday announced that the final of the second edition of the ICC World Test Championship will be played at The Oval, London from June 7 to 11, 2023 with a reserve day in place (June 12). New Zealand had won the inaugural edition, defeating India by eight wickets in the 2021 final in Southampton.
Australia leads the nine-team points table for the ongoing cycle with a healthy points percentage of 75.56, followed by India at 58.93. The two teams are set to face off in a four-match Test series, beginning 9 February in Nagpur, and the eventual result will play a significant part in determining the eventual finalists.
But Sri Lanka and South Africa have outside chances of making it to the final and it all depends on the outcome of the India-Australia series and the one involving Sri Lanka taking on New Zealand in an away series while South Africa meet the West Indies in two matches.
However, India captain Rohit Sharma said they are not thinking of the World Test Championships final and are focusing on the battles with Australia instead.
"Honestly, we have not spoken too much about that. We will just try to do well in this series and see what happens. It is too far ahead to think about it. There are a lot of calculations and all that. We don't want to get into that. Just want to focus on how we can win each Test match because we are playing in different venues," Rohit said during the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
"Different venues will present different challenges. At the moment, we just want to focus on the game here and see what we can do as a team and then worry about the WTC final later. We have got four solid Tests to play, so our focus should be on that. None of the guys in the changing room or team room have been talking about that. We just want to come out here and play this Test match and move on," he added.
The opener said that there were enough challenges in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.
"It is going to be a challenging series, no doubt about it. One day at a time, focus and see how you can win on that particular day. You can think about winning the series, Test matches and all but it is about winning the session on a particular day and move forward," he said.
Sri Lanka (53.33%) and South Africa (48.72%) too, who take the third and fourth positions respectively, are in with a chance. Sri Lanka have two away Tests against New Zealand remaining in the ongoing cycle, while South Africa's last assignment is the two-match home series against the West Indies.
Sri Lanka can make it to the WTC Final if India lose 0-4 to Australia and they beat New Zealand 2-0 and West Indies blank South Africa by the same margin.
South Africa's remote chances depend on both India and Sri Lanka losing very badly in their series.
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