'He could've been the difference' - Ponting names India's 'valuable' omission from WTC plans
Ricky Ponting assessed the Indian team set to lock horns with arch-rivals Australia in the marquee final of the World Test Championship (WTC) and came up with a surprise name to insist the cricketer should've been there in plans for the runners-up of the previous tournament cycle.
The legendary Australian batter and former skipper called the player an "X-factor", who could've been the "difference" between the two sides with his allround presence. Ponting had been following this cricketer closely in his coaching duties for the Delhi Capitals (DC) in IPL 2023 and feels he would've bolstered India's claim for the prestigious trophy at The Oval.
The cricketer that the batting great was speaking of as a "valuable" omission from India's WTC plans is Hardik Pandya, the team's premier limited-overs allrounder, who last turned up in Test match cricket in 2018 but continues to inspire positive views on his future in the longest format.
Ponting joined the list of prominent names in world cricket who continue to seek the player's return to the Test match set-up, firmly believing he is the missing cog in the Indian team that could do with a robust fast-bowling allrounder.
Ponting bats for Pandya in India's WTC plans
In a conversation on 'The ICC Review' show ahead of the much-anticipated India-Australia clash in England, Ponting said Hardik Pandya is the missing jigsaw in India's puzzle as he has the batting prowess and the pace to be the fast-bowling allrounder Indians continue to dream of since the legendary Kapil Dev retired.
"The other really interesting thing that I thought about the other day for India in this game is how valuable someone like Hardik Pandya could be in a one-off Test match," Ponting said.
"I know he is on record saying that the Test match game is probably a little bit hard on his body. But for a one-off game... he's been bowling every game through this IPL and he's bowling quick."
“He could be that X-factor there just to pick in a one-off game, come in and see what he can do with bat and ball. He could be the difference between the two teams," he added.
Pandya, who went down with a serious back injury after his last Test assignment in England back in 2018, hasn't been able to retain fitness standards required to withstand the rigours of the five-day version.
The cricketer is mindful of his state of physique in this regard and admitted he needs to work extensively harder to regain his Test match spot. But how he would be able to do so in a calendar filled with limited-overs cricket remains a major curiosity.
"No. I am ethically very strong person. I haven’t done 10% to reach there. I am not even a part of 1%. So me coming there and taking someone’s place will ethically not go well," Hardik Pandya was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
"If I want to play Test cricket, I’ll go through the grind and earn my spot. Hence, for that reason I will not be available for the WTC final or future test series until I feel that I have earned my spot."