Aus have the edge over India with fewer injuries to key players: Ponting

Former Aussie skipper says he feels the buzz of the WTC final even in high-octane IPL

Ricky Ponting Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting | AFP

Much before he became a cricket coach, Ricky Ponting had a reputation of being not just a highly competitive and top-quality cricketer, but also a very astute and driven leader. A day before his last match as coach of the Delhi Capitals in the ongoing Indian Premier League, in an event organised by the International Cricket Council in New Delhi, Ponting shared his thoughts on the upcoming final Test match between India and Australia at the Oval in London, England in three weeks time. Injuries to key players from both sides is the dominating issue for the teams going into the final match but, nevertheless, he believes this should not deter both team captains to play hard and aggressive brand of cricket. Excerpts from an interaction organised by the International Cricket Council in New Delhi today : 

Q) Your thoughts on the Test match final and how it is likely to pan out? 

So much excitement around one-off Test match, I think ICC needs to be applauded for making this possible. This has been four years now in making since they turned it from being just the points leader at that end of the year and winning the mace to this one-off final. New Zealand won it last time by beating India and now the two best teams meeting in the final. I fly straight back home from here, get a week and a half, and fly to London to commentate on the game and will be there after that for Ashes. 

This won't be a one-off everyday Test match, there's lots more on the line. Both teams are best teams in test cricket; over the last few years playing on neutral venues. The winner will be holding that thing (pointing at the mace displayed on the stage) at the end of it. You listen to players talking about it all the time; the whole idea was to give more context to every single day’s play at Test match. Whoever is good enough to stand up there at the end of the day and hold that trophy up will be very deserving of it. 

Q) You are watching players from close quarters -those who will be playing in the WTC final match. Virat Kohli, Cameron Green... their preparations must have started already? 

Cameron Green is playing, Indians playing here, last few weeks, their training would have changed. They won't be just thinking of the next IPL game; some of the bowlers will be thinking of workload management – get enough overs under their belt required to be ready for a Test match. India, because of IPL going on have a few more injury issues going on as compared to Australia; Josh Hazelwood seems to have picked up a niggle he didn't play last night. He has to think of the WTC final and Ashes after that...for Australia. K.L. Rahul is injured, Umesh Yadav as well ...India has couple of injury issues but there are still three weeks to go. It will be disappointing if both teams can't put their best teams out in the park.

Q) Over the years, India-Australia rivalry has grown a lot. Your thoughts on that as both teams get ready to face each other in the WTC final? 

Oh, the rivalry has increased over time, game by game. In late 1990s, when India woke up to show what force they were in test cricket, that's when the shift was there. When the real power shifted towards India through the likes of Ganguly. To compete against the best teams in the World they probably had to play their cricket in a different way. I think that's when it happened – when Steve Waugh was captain, against Sourav and Sachin, that rivalry series by series, match by match – there was a change then. 

Q) The final will be at the Oval in England- the neutral venue factor, how much does it play in it? 

It will I think. If you look at the conditions in England you would think they would suit Australia more. There's a neutral venue and there is also choice of ball also. Both teams have decided it will be Kookaburra ball. If you look at all the conditions, I would say Australia have a slight edge. 

Q) How much of a factor will rivalries like Kohli vs Starc or Ashwin vs Smith play in making this an exciting final? 

They will miss Bumrah but Shami and Umesh – like to bowl in English conditions. 

One thing India has been able to change is their ability to compete outside India. Virat Kohli will be the prized wicket and Pujara is really hard to dismiss. It will be India’s top order vs Australian fast bowlers. 

Normally wickets at the Oval have helped batters the first few days then gradually the spinners. Also, Indian spinners and Ausmiddle order will hold key. 

Q) Your advice to both captains. 

The cricket world likes to see five days of really good cricket with a result. I’ll be saying to both captains let's go out there- play good, hard aggressive Test cricket and make sure there's a result in the game. If it means you have got to put yourself or team on line to potentially lose the game, go and do it. The really refreshing thing I have seen in world cricket last two years is “win at all cost.”  I want to see cricket played the best way it can be. The captains in this final can show the World Test match can be played in an aggressive manner and can take the game forward to win the game. 

Q) Thoughts on Rohit Sharma the Test skipper. 

I know Rohit really well. Had a chance to play with Rohit, I had a chance to coach Rohit and I was the one to give Rohit first chance to captain MI when I stepped down. I really respect Rohit as a person. It's not about assessing what Rohit does on field but off-field, he understands his players, talks to his players; he's a very caring person.

Q) With Pant out due to injury and Surya Kumar Yadav not in main Test team, how big a setback it is for India? 

Yes, but other thing is there is also someone like Ishan Kishan in the team. He's probably the most like Pant and I think his potential in batting allowed them to play the way they are playing, India will get a result by being a bit more adventurous in the way they play. 

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