New Delhi [India], May 29 (ANI): Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting wants Team India to play X-factor players like Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav in the final of the ICC World Test Championship against Australia if they want to have an advantage over their opponents.
In a recent episode of the ICC Review podcast, Ponting stated that his India playing XI for the WTC final will also contain Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, with Jadeja primarily serving as a batter at Number six and Suryakumar preceding Jadeja in the middle order.
"If I was them [India], knowing the importance of this game - and you have to win this Test match - I would be going with Ishan Kishan in this game. He provides that little bit of X-factor that you need when you might be pushing for a win in a Test match. Obviously, if Rishabh Pant is fit, he is playing, and he provides that X-factor for India. But with him not being there, and this is no blot on Bharat whatsoever, but I think Kishan just provides that little bit more X-factor, who would do a good job with the gloves but can provide that really high-scoring run rate that is required in a one-off Test match to push for a win," said Ponting as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
"I would be going with as many X-factor players as I could and put some real pressure back on Australia," added the Aussie great.
Kishan and Suryakumar are not Test regulars for India. While Kishan is yet to make his debut in the longer format, he was a part of India's squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia this year. Suryakumar also played his only Test in this series, scoring eight runs at Nagpur, where Team India won.
However, both players have respectable first-class records. While Kishan has 2,985 runs in 48 matches at an average of 38.76, Suryakumar has 5,557 runs in 80 first-class games, averaging 44.45 runs per game. However, both of them are best known for being powerful short-format batters.
Ponting is also happy to see Ajinkya Rahane make his return to the Indian Test side after good performances in domestic cricket and the IPL.
Rahane, who was India's Number five until he was dropped in the early months of 2022, had a successful domestic campaign (2022-23) and concluded as Mumbai's top Ranji Trophy run-getter with 634 runs in seven matches at 57.63. In the most recent IPL, Rahane dazzled many observers with his aggressive stroke play as a top-order impact batter for Chennai Super Kings.
"Jinks (Rahane) has had an incredible IPL as well. It is funny, is not it, how IPL runs can now get you picked back into a Test match squad. Jinks has been on the outer for the last couple of years in Test cricket, but everyone saw how confident he looked and how well he played in the IPL and that was enough to get him back in," said Ponting.
"He has been there and done it before in Test cricket. It was probably a bigger hurdle for him to climb to get back into playing really good T20 cricket than it is for him to go back and play good Test cricket. His make-up is much more suited to the Test game than it is to T20 cricket. He has rediscovered some confidence and if he does get picked, I won't be surprised to see him get runs in that Test match.""He has always been a really high-quality player and we saw him even with his leadership qualities here in Australia, in that last series to turn things around," Ponting concluded.
The 15-man Indian squad has three spin bowling all-rounders in Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel. Despite Axar's all-format consistency this year, Ponting expects India to go with Ashwin and Jadeja because of how the pitch works in the Oval, where the match will be played from June 7.
"I think they will pick Jadeja and Ashwin because Jadeja can hold that No. 6 batting spot. His batting has improved that much that they can pick him as a batter now that might just bowl a few overs if required. There is no doubt that Ashwin is a more skilled and better Test bowler than what Jadeja is, but if Jadeja can hold down that batting spot and then as the game goes on, getting into the fourth and fifth day, if it does start to turn, then you have got that really high-class second spin bowling option if required.
"Historically, the Oval pitch has been a very good batting wicket. It has generally offered something for the fast bowlers on day one, not a lot. But I have also played some games there where it has turned a lot. If it starts a little bit dry, it can turn a lot," concluded Ponting.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wk), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc and David Warner.
Standby players: Mitch Marsh and Matthew Renshaw.
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), 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 and Ishan Kishan (wk).
Standby players: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Mukesh Kumar and Suryakumar Yadav. (ANI)