Ponting makes his picks in the T20 World Cup player face-offs

Jasprit Bumrah v Shaheen Afridi? Babar Azam v Jos Buttler? Hardik Pandya v Glenn Maxwell? Want Hasaranga v Rashid Khan? Dinesh Karthik v Rishabh Pant?

Australia legend Ricky Ponting has engaged in a bit of fun on the latest episode of The ICC Review to make some bold calls and decide who he would choose in some of the most difficult head-to-head matchups between some of the biggest names in T20I cricket.

Ponting – in his role as a respected commentator and a high-profile coach – watches as much T20 cricket as anyone around the globe, keeping a keen eye on some of the most talented players around the world.

With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia fast approaching, people have started to wonder which player would excel the most in a particular given role in T20 cricket.

Speaking with host Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review, Ponting was given the unenviable task of selecting only one player out of two in the player face-offs.

From opening batters to wily spinners, here are Ponting’s selections.

1. Jasprit Bumrah v Shaheen Afridi

Two of the premier fast bowlers in the world, both Jasprit Bumrah and Shaheen Afridi can boast of having an enviable record in the shortest format. While Bumrah has picked up 69 wickets in 58 matches, Afridi has scalped 47 in 40.

The two pacers are equally effective with the new ball as well as in the death overs. Ponting too, had a tough time in picking one, stating: “Look, how do you split those two guys? They are two of the best performing bowlers in the world in the last couple of years in all formats of the game.”

Eventually, Ponting settled for the experienced campaigner in Bumrah.

“I’ll probably go on experience alone – I’ll go for Bumrah. He’s played a fair bit of cricket in Australia now, played more in Australia than Afridi and has played more big tournaments as well than Afridi has.”

2. Babar Azam v Jos Buttler

Ponting was next asked to make his choice between two of the most consistent opening batters in the world. Both Babar and Buttler lead from the front, with their records speaking for themselves.

Babar has scored 2,138 runs in 80 matches, while Buttler has notched up 1,562 runs in 94 games.

Both players feature in Ponting’s list of top five T20 players and the former Australia skipper was full of praise for the pair.

But Buttler’s international strike-rate of 142.57 helped him pip Babar who strikes at 128.81.

“Babar Azam, he is technically a better player than Buttler. You look at their strike-rates though and there is no comparison there, Buttler is much more dynamic, sort of a more 360-degree player than Babar is,” Ponting noted.

Buttler’s experience in Australia also worked in his favor.

Buttler has also played more cricket in Australia with England and he has spent some time in the Big Bash with Sydney Thunder. So I’m going to go Jos Buttler on this one,” Ponting added.

3. Hardik Pandya v Glenn Maxwell

In the battle of the explosive all-rounders, Ponting found it hard to decide, opting for a draw. The Australia legend believed that while Pandya would make more of an impact with the ball in Australia, he backed his countryman to prove more destructive with the bat.

Praising Hardik, Ponting said: “Hardik’s last few months, in particular, have probably been the best of his career. Looking at the way they stack up, I think Hardik will probably have more of a chance to have an impact with the ball and also more of a chance to have an impact with the bat.”

But Ponting was also effusive in his praise for Maxwell, adding: “Maxwell’s been batting quite low in T20 cricket. But that being said, in Australia, I think Maxwell will end up scoring more runs than Hardik. And I think Hardik will take more wickets than Maxwell. So, I’m going to call that one a draw.”

4. Wanindu Hasaranga v Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan has long been regarded as one of the best spinners in T20 cricket. Wanindu Hasaranga has also enjoyed a prominent rise of late, leading the wicket-taking charts at the T20 World Cup 2021 in UAE and then following it up with his Player of the Tournament exploits at the Asia Cup.

Despite Hasaranga’s recent performances, Ponting still backed Rashid over the Sri Lankan star due to his experiences in the Big Bash League. Claiming that conditions in Australia won’t support either of the spinners, Ponting said: “Hasaranga has obviously been white-hot of late and conditions here are not going to suit either of these two guys.

“Rashid Khan’s played 5-6 years now in the BBL with Adelaide Strikers, been the No.1 ranked T20 bowler in the world for a long time now so Rashid Khan just pips Hasaranga.”

5. Dinesh Karthik v Rishabh Pant

The debate in the Indian cricketing circles has long been raging on who should be the designated wicketkeeper-batter in the side. While Karthik can boast about being an excellent finisher, Pant’s prodigious talent has seen him being backed by many.

India have fielded both in the same side on some occasions and Ponting believes that should be the way forward for Rohit Sharma’s team.

Praising both, Ponting said: “I actually think that India’s best team has both of these players. I don’t care if they are both keepers but I think their batting prowess is enough.”

Elaborating on their abilities, the Australian legend added: “Rishabh in the middle order and Dinesh as a finisher, they look extremely dangerous to me.”

Ultimately though, Ponting believed that Pant had an edge over Karthik as he is likely to be afforded more chances.

“Look, I’m just going to favor Rishabh because I think he might get slightly more opportunities than Dinesh does,” he concluded.

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