Batting great Ricky Ponting is a tad surprised that Suryakumar Yadav doesn’t feature in India’s main squad for next month’s World Test Championship final but backed Ishan Kishan to provide the much-needed ‘X’ factor in the absence of injured Rishabh Pant.
Pant, who is recovering from injuries that he suffered in a horrific car crash in December, was India’s go to batter in case of a top-order failure, especially in overseas conditions.
Suryakumar, who made his Test debut against Australia at home earlier this year, could do the same for the team but he is only among the standby players. An injury to K L Rahul has made way for Kishan, who Ponting thinks can help India play an aggressive brand of cricket in their quest for a first ICC title in 10 years.
Asked if Suryakumar should have been in the squad, Ponting expressed surprised and said “yes”.
“But there is another X factor that has just been added in Ishan Kishan. If you look at the way he plays, he is probably the most like Rishabh Pant with his potential to keep and bat in the middle order.
“If they do play those guys they should be given the right to play an aggressive brand of cricket.
“The best chance for India to achieve a result is by being a bit more adventurous in the way they play and Australia will try to do the same thing,” said Ponting in response to a PTI query in an event organised by the International Cricket Council ahead of the WTC final at the Oval from June 7.
Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah are the other injured players who are not available for the final.
“With the injury issues India have got, they can go with few different ways especially in batting. Before Rahul’s injury I had him in the eleven, now that he is not there, they need to pick Ishan or K S Bharat,” said the three-time ODI World Cup winner.
Slight advantage to Australia considering conditions
Ponting feels Australia have a slight upper hand going into the title clash.
“If this game was played in India, I would have said it would be really hard for Australia to win. If this game was played in Australia I would say Australia will be favourites but in England, it brings the teams together.
“We don’t know what the conditions will be like. Having played at the Oval I think conditions will be much similar to an Australian wicket compared to an Indian wicket, therefore giving a slight advantage to Australia.” The legendary cricketer said both teams might use the Kookaburra ball for the big game but a source in ICC said as per the norm, the Dukes ball will be in play.
Who is better prepared for WTC with most Indian players busy with IPL?
Majority of India’s WTC squad members are playing in the IPL while only three Australians are part of the T20 competition.
For India, Cheteshwar Pujara is the only one plying his trade in county cricket, while Australians currently in England include Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne. Skipper Pat Cummins and pace spearhead Mitchell Starc have chose to stay back home and have not played in months.
“There are two ways to look at this. For someone like Virat, is he better off playing now and scoring runs at a consistent basis and have confidence going into a game rather than the Australians back home who haven’t been playing much cricket but will be mentally better prepared,” Ponting said.
“So there are both ways to look at it. Is Shami going to be better skill wise compared to Cummins who has not played any cricket in months? It is a hard one. Lot of it comes down to individuals.” The 48-year-old doesn’t feel there is an “advantage” either way.
“The Indians players in the IPL won’t only be thinking about the IPL. There will be workload management to make sure they are fine to bowl in a Test match in couple of weeks time.
“The other thing is not all of those players are going to play in the IPL final. Someone of those guys will be out tomorrow and actually have two and a half weeks of rest and preparation time.
“I am not sure there is right or wrong. What Aussies have done being there like Smith and Labuschagne they are giving themselves the best chance getting used to the conditions.
“But I am sure if you ask Virat what he would rather be doing he would say ‘I rather be scoring runs now’. If you ask the fast bowlers they would probably prefer a couple of weeks’ rest. So it works both ways.”
Ponting reveals chat with Kohli
Ponting, who is the Delhi Capitals head coach, revealed his lengthy chat with Kohli during the away tie against Royals Challengers Bangalore last month.
The Indian superstar silenced his critics with a sublime T20 hundred on Thursday night and that should send alarm bells ringing in the Australian camp.
“I caught up with Virat about a month ago when we played them in Bangalore. I had a good chat with him about his batting and where he was at in his career. And he said to me then that he actually feels like he’s almost back to his absolute best.
“You probably saw that last night, you know, he’s had a very good IPL and I’m sure he’ll be the prize wicket that all the Australians are looking forward to.” Among the players on either side, Ponting picked opener Usman Khawaja as the one to watch out for rather than stars like Kohli and Smith.
He was also asked to compare Rohit Sharma’s captaincy with the likes of M S Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly.
“I know Rohit really well. I have played with him and coached him. I was the one who gave him the chance to captain Mumbai Indians when I stepped down as a player. I was the one who single handedly selected Rohit to become MI captain.
“I really respect him as a person and what he has done as a player. The hardest thing for anyone on the outside is to judge a captain for what he does on the field.
“It is not about a field change or bowling change or batting order. It is about how you interact with them. More than 50 percent of captaincy is done off the field. Knowing Rohit as well as I do, he is a very caring person and if you do that, you get performance out of your players.”