With the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final being less than a month away, former England spinner Monty Panesar has backed India to win the much-awaited contest in Southampton.
While the New Zealand side has already arrived in the UK for their two-Test series against England, the Indian contingent is expected to arrive in the first week of June.
The WTC final, scheduled to be played from June 18 at the Ageas Bowl, will be a repeat of the 2019 World Cup semi-final where New Zealand had registered an 18-run win in a rain-marred encounter against India.
In an exclusive interaction with India TV, Panesar said that Virat Kohli-led Indian camp can lift the WTC trophy and also register a 5-0 clean sweep against England in the subsequent Test series. With the weather being on the warm side in August, Panesar also weighed in on India lodging two spinners in the Playing XI.
"I think India is going through their best time. When the weather is warm in August, they can even play with two spinners in English conditions. The current Indian team has the potential to defeat England 5-0. After Alastair Cook's retirement, the English top-order hasn't looked reliable. If India managed to register a clean sweep, it'll be their greatest overseas series win," said Panesar.
"Spinners will also play a crucial role in the WTC final in Southampton. We'll have to see how the ICC prepares the pitch for the event. For the Test series, England will obviously go with a green wicket. But for the WTC final, I think the ICC should prepare a neutral wicket. It'll be the perfect advertisement for the WTC if the final spans over 4 or 5 days," he further said.
"For me, Ravindra Jadeja will be the X-factor. He's been in terrific form in the IPL. If India decides to go with just one spinner, I'll go with Jadeja instead of R Ashwin as the spin-bowling option. Jadeja's defensive bowling skill and being a left-armer give him an upper hand," said Panesar.
While the inaugural WTC will be played from June 18-22 in Southampton, the England series will start at Nottingham (Aug 4-8) and will be followed by matches at Lord's (August 12-16), Leeds (Aug 25-29), Oval (Sep 2-6) and Manchester (Sep 10-14).