The Australian team has a slight lead on paper on the bouncy oval course, but both Ravi Shastri and Ricky Ponting think the Indians are better prepared for the World Testing Championship final starting on Wednesday with IPL playing time behind them. Shastry, Ponting and Pakistan legend Wasim Akram believe the Oval Circuit will remain fresher than usual as it has never hosted a test match in June in the stadium’s 140-year history. Shastri, India’s former head coach who led the team to the inaugural WTC final in 2021, believes that if Jasprit Bamra had been there, India would have started equally, if not as favorites.
“I would say, if you look at the attack speed, if Bumra was there, I would say that he was equal to the attack of Mohammed Shami, Bumra and Mohammed Siraj. into the game,” Shastri said at the ICC event “A Day with Challenge Legends.”
Shastri believes that even if it was two months of T20 cricket, the timing of the game matters. Ponting and Akram agreed with Shastri.
“Match fitness can play a role,” says Shastri.
“You need cricket after you, and being in the park for six hours over five days is different from bowling for two hours every day,” he said.
“Shami can play a key role as he plays a lot of cricket,” Shastri added.
In fact, Ponting also seemed to doubt whether it was better to be fresh without a lot of games than to play some intense T20 cricket.
“Some of the Australians didn’t do anything and didn’t play anything. Come fresh, which is better? Or come tired, slightly exhausted, but playing a lot of cricket, which is better,” Ponting said without giving a definite answer.
Akram’s approach to workload has not changed over the years.
“As a player, I enjoy the cricket (games) behind me. The format doesn’t matter as long as I play. It’s better to have a tournament like the IPL.” Shastri, who was in the Indian dressing room when they lost a rain-marred final at Southampton in 2021, said things have been very different this cycle.
“When you don’t win, it hurts because you’re not around to fill in the numbers. But if I look back, compared to that World Testing Championship cycle, it’s chalk and cheese.
“There was COVID-19, quarantine. It was hard for the players, 14 days in isolation, and then seven days of training. Here, both teams managed to prepare, and it will be a good fight,” he said.
For Akram, who has played county cricket in England for more than a decade, mostly for Lancashire, a team he also captained, the June test match at the Oval will have its own set of conditions. “At The Oval you play a test match either in the last week of August or the first or second week of September when the pitch is completely dry. But this time it’s a fresh field, and it’s early June.
“There will be a lot more rebounds. Dukes swing much bigger and longer and stay much stronger than the Kookaburra. I think Australia will be a bit of a favourite,” Sultan of Swing said.
For former Australian skipper Ponting, conditions on the Oval in June promise sunny weather. He said that it reminded him more of the conditions at home than the English language.
“Never participated in a test match held at the Oval in June (since 1880). The field must be perfect. It’s a neutral ball (Dukes, not Kookaburra or SG Test) on a neutral court and it (Dukes) does (seam and swing) longer (time periods).
“Look at this place, it’s more Australian than English. Conditions are a bit more favorable for Australia,” he said.
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