New Delhi: With just a little over 20 days left for the second edition of the World Test Championship final between India and Australia happening at The Oval from June 7-11, former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting believes the conditions in England will be giving the slight advantage to Pat Cummins & Co as compared to Rohit Sharma and his side.
Australia's top-order batters Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne have been playing county cricket, as have been pace bowling all-rounders Sean Abbott and Michael Neser. Australia's overall win percentage at The Oval in Tests stands at 18.42, which is a little higher than India's at 14.28.
"If you look at it just from a conditions point of view only, you would think that the conditions in England should suit Australia a little bit more, as the English conditions are definitely more like Australia than what they are in India, especially on what we've seen the last few times in Australia."
"I've actually been to India and played Test cricket here. We've seen the wickets and they've played on, which have been very spin friendly wickets and surroundings have always been difficult to play on. But I thought the comeback shown by Australia in the last two Test matches was really pleasing," said Ponting at the official curtain raiser event of the WTC Final on Friday.
Ponting also claimed that a red kookaburra ball could be used for the coveted clash for a glittering mace. Interestingly, the Dukes ball was used for the inaugural World Test Championship Final at Southampton in 2021, where New Zealand emerged triumphant over India and has been constantly used for Tests in England.
"There's a neutral venue, there's also the choice of ball as well, which has been in the news the last few weeks. Will it be the dukes or kookaburra balls? I think it sounds like both teams have decided that it's going to be the kookaburra ball. Even though you don't know how the kookaburra ball will be doing in that way."
"Every time you go to England, you're used to seeing the dukes ball and what it does. So there's those little aspects to it as well. But if you look at conditions, only then you would have to think that there's a slight advantage to Australia," he added.
With just ten days in hand for India to prepare and acclimatize to the conditions in England for the WTC final after IPL 2023 ends on May 28, Ponting thinks it shouldn't affect their preparations for the highly-anticipated WTC final.
"There are two ways to look at it. For someone like Virat (Kohli), is he better off playing and scoring runs on a consistent basis and have confidence going into a game? The Australian bowlers back home haven't played much cricket. So, they will be immensely prepared with runs under their belt and there's both ways to look at it."
"Mohammed Shami will be better skill-wise than what Pat Cummins is as the latter hasn't played any cricket for a few months now. A lot of it comes down to the individual. Indian players playing in the IPL won't be thinking about it; they will be on workload management stuff to ensure they will be fine to bowl in a Test match in a couple of weeks' time."
"The interesting thing with that as well is, not all of those players will be playing in the IPL final on May 28. Some of those guys who will be out will have two-and-a-half weeks as rest and preparation time. What the Australian players have done though is, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are in England and getting used to the conditions, giving themselves the best chance."
"Michael Neser and Sean Abbott are also there in the extended squad for Australia, so they are playing there and bowling in case there's an injury to any of the Australian fast bowlers. So, I don't think there's an advantage either way. But I'm sure if you ask Virat what he'd rather be doing, he'd say he'd rather be scoring runs now. If you ask the fast bowlers they'd probably say that they'd probably prefer to have a couple of weeks rest. It works both ways," he elaborated.
India's top order vs Australia's pace attack
Ponting, who will be commentating on the upcoming WTC final after finishing his coaching commitments with Delhi Capitals in IPL 2023, believes the clash between India's top order and Australia's pace attack could be a deciding factor in determining the winner of the final at The Oval from June 7-11.
"I think it'll be India's top order against Australia's fast bowling, It's a bit of a mouth-watering thought going forward. Generally, we think about the battles between India's spinners and Australia's batters. But will that be negated by the wicket at The Oval?"
"Normally the wickets that I've played on The Oval have started as really good batting wickets, and actually have offered a little bit to the spinners as the game's going on. That's what I'd like to see in this wicket to have a really good contest on day four, day five, or maybe even day six, seeing how it's going. As the game goes on, we will see the battle between Indian spinners and Australia's middle-order."