The World Test Championship final takes place between June 7-11 with India meeting Australia for the titular clash at The Oval. The Rohit Sharma-led Indian team reached its second-successive final in March earlier this year, following a 2-1 Test series win over the Aussies. In 2021, Virat Kohli’s Indian team faced a defeat to New Zealand in the final; ahead of the star-studded clash in June this year, many former cricketers have weighed in on their favourites and former Australia captain Ricky Ponting also made a combined XI of both sides.
Interestingly, Ponting had only four Indian players in his combined XI, with Rohit Sharma leading the side. He picked Usman Khawaja to open with Rohit, omitting the in-form Shubman Gill, who had scored a century in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy earlier ths year.
“I’ll start with Usman Khawaja. His last couple of years, whether it has been in Australia or away, have been outstanding at the top of the order,” Ponting said on The ICC Review podcast.
“Almost since he’s been picked back in the Australian team, he hasn’t put a foot wrong. The older he is getting, the better he is getting.
“I’m going left hand-right hand, so I’ll go for Rohit Sharma as the other opener. He’s not just entirely form-based either. I wanted him to be captain of the side. Pat Cummins, I’ll mention him later, he’ll be in this side, but just from the experience point of view with Rohit, he’s obviously been captain a lot longer than Pat has, so I thought he deserved to be the captain of this team.”
At no.3, he picked Marnus Labuschagne, followed by the star duo of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, widely considered as two of the best Test batters in modern-day cricket.
“We know what sort of class he holds with the bat. Even his recent form in the last series against Australia was great, scoring that unbelievable hundred on a wicket where everyone else really struggled on.”
“Since he (Labuschagne) came into Test cricket as a concussion sub at Lord’s when Steve Smith got hit by Jofra Archer, he’s hardly put a foot wrong. He’s improved and come on in leaps and bounds to be where he is now, right at the top of the world Test Batting Rankings, so it was pretty hard to go past him.”
“Pretty hard to go past the next couple I’ve got in the batting line-up, which are Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. If you talk about great players of the last decade, both of these guys will be right at the top of anyone’s list. Both with exceptional Test records and both make a lot of hundreds.”
“I know it has been a couple of years and been a bit of a lean sort of trot with Virat, but he bounced back to his best in that last series against Australia and thoroughly deserves to be picked in the middle order.”
While Ravindra Jadeja was the third Indian to feature in the XI, Ponting relied on Aussie wicketkeeper Alex Carey for the spot.
“What I’ve seen with Ravi Jadeja the last two or three years in Test cricket is how much his batting has improved, and he can easily hold down a number six or number seven spot. It could be Carey at six and Jadeja at seven, or vice versa, whichever way the game was sort of going. Alex Carey’s Test career has grown a lot in the last 12 months as well. His wicketkeeping is almost second to none in world cricket at the moment.
“He had an unbelievable series in Australia last summer, and then his keeping in those trying conditions in India in the last Border-Gavaskar Trophy as well was absolutely outstanding.
“He probably didn’t make the runs that we thought he might have got in those spinning conditions in India, but most batsmen didn’t, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there.”
There was only one Indian in the pace-bowling attack – Mohammed Shami. Giving him company were the Aussie fast-bowling duo of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, as well as spinner Nathan Lyon.
“Mitchell Starc’s last 12 months, I think have probably been some of the best that he’s actually had in Test cricket. He’s developed a few more skills, I think his consistency has become a lot better. We know how dangerous he is with the new ball, but his old ball bowling has certainly become better.
“I know we’re picking a Test team here, and Shami’s Test record the last couple of years has been outstanding, but some of his bowling over the last few weeks in the IPL has also been absolutely unbelievable,” Ponting said.
“He’s just about the pick of the new-ball bowlers I think now going around in the IPL. I know we’re switching to a red ball, but I think he thoroughly deserves to be picked in that line-up.”
“Nathan Lyon will be the other spinner in the side,” Ponting said.
“I judge spin on what Indian subcontinental batsmen normally talk about when they talk about facing spin bowling, and everyone I’ve spoken to from India or Sri Lanka and those sorts of places rate Nathan Lyon really highly. So he’s going to go in there.”
Ponting’s combined India-Australia XI:
Rohit Sharma (c), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Ravindra Jadeja, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mohammed Shami
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