WTC Final: Ponting's assessment points to Pujara and Kohli as India's X-Factors

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New Delhi, Jun 01, 2023, IANS

As the highly anticipated ICC World Test Championship (WTC) Final approaches, former Australian captain Ricky Ponting has identified Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli as the pivotal players who could determine India's fortunes in the ultimate clash.

Ponting revealed that the Australian team has been closely analyzing the batting prowess of these two stalwarts, acknowledging their significant impact on the game.

In particular, Ponting emphasized Pujara's exceptional record against Australia, making him a potential game-changer in the WTC Final. With a staggering 2,033 runs and five centuries from 24 Tests against the Aussies, Pujara has consistently troubled the Australian bowlers in the past.

As the teams prepare to lock horns from June 7, Pujara's role will undoubtedly be crucial to India's chances of clinching the prestigious championship.

Meanwhile, Ponting also stressed the importance of Virat Kohli's return to form in recent months.

Following a magnificent knock of 186 runs in the fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, Kohli has regained his confidence and is poised to deliver his best performance.

Ponting acknowledged that the Australian team will be paying close attention to Kohli, given his ability to dominate the game.

"Pujara has been a thorn in their side a lot in the past, and in Australia, and this wicket will potentially be a lot more like an Australian pitch. They know that they'll have to get him early," Ponting commented.

"They also know that Virat over the last few weeks is probably just about back to his absolute best."

While discussing India's batting lineup, Ponting mentioned skipper Rohit Sharma as a player who can significantly influence the outcome of the WTC Final.

Additionally, he highlighted the potential impact of young opener Shubman Gill, who impressed with a remarkable century during the Ahmedabad Test earlier this year.

Gill's ability to take on the fast bowlers and his composed approach make him a valuable asset for India, especially in the absence of the injured K.L. Rahul.

"He looks like a terrific young guy. He's got that bit of attitude about him as well. He's got a bit of swagger. He has some serious class," Ponting praised Gill.

"That sort of front foot pull shot that he plays against the fast bowlers will be a shot that he'll probably need against this Australian attack."

With concerns over Jasprit Bumrah's fitness, Ponting believes that Mohammad Shami holds the key to India's bowling success against Australia's formidable lineup.

Shami's ability to produce breakthroughs with the new and old ball has earned him praise from Australian batsmen.

Ponting emphasized that Shami must elevate his game to another level to give India a fighting chance in the WTC Final.

"I think he has to step up or try and take his game to another level if India are going to win this game. When you talk to the Australian batters as well, they understand how good Shami is whether it's a new ball or an old ball, whether it's in Australia or India.

They know the skillset he's got and how dangerous he can be. It's going to have to be him," Ponting concluded.

As the countdown to the WTC Final continues, all eyes will be on the performances of Pujara, Kohli, Gill, and Shami, as their contributions will undoubtedly shape the outcome of this thrilling encounter between two cricketing giants. (Edited)