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'He Could Be That X-Factor...,' Ponting Points Player Who Could Have Been Game-Changer in WTC Final

image-libbpmleHardik Pandya has not played a Test in nearly five years (Twitter)

After enthralling Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, the cricketing world eagerly anticipates the upcoming clash between India and Australia for the prestigious World Test Championship (WTC) title at The Oval, commencing on June 7.

Ahead of the highly anticipated encounter, former Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes that the Indian selectors may have overlooked a pivotal opportunity by not including a prominent 29-year-old Indian cricket star for this one-off encounter.

Ponting, engaged in a conversation on The ICC Review, drew attention to the absence of Hardik Pandya from the Indian squad for the WTC final. Since his resplendent return to white-ball cricket in June 2022, the all-rounder has put in impressive performances both as a batter and a leader in IPL 2023. Consequently, Ponting believes that the all-rounder's inclusion in the red-ball squad could have proven advantageous.

Ponting highlighted the considerable worth that a player of Pandya's calibre could bring to India in a single Test match.

“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,"

Further, acknowledging Pandya’s previous remarks about the physical demands of Test cricket, the Australian noted that the all-rounder had expressed concerns about its impact on his body.

However, Ponting pointed out that Pandya had been actively bowling in every IPL game, consistently displaying his pace, which could have made him a valuable asset in a one-off Test match.

“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,"

According to the Aussie veteran, Pandya possesses the potential to be the game-changing X-factor in a one-off Test match. He reckoned that the Gujarat Titans skipper’s inclusion in such a scenario, where he could demonstrate his abilities with both bat and ball, might significantly impact the outcome of the match and potentially make the difference between the two competing teams.

“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."

Notably, Pandya has been absent from Test cricket since 2018 due to back issues, which subsequently hampered his white-ball performances as well. During this time, his role has predominantly revolved around batting rather than contributing with the ball.