Ricky Ponting has called on India to select both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin for the ICC World Test Championship Final after their recent success with bat and ball.
Spinners Jadeja and Ashwin loom as key players, especially after the duo dominated as India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 series triumph over Australia earlier this year.
But with the WTC Final set to be played in vastly different conditions at The Oval in England from June 7 their selection for the decider remains far from certain.
The spin twins were separated when Jadeja was preferred over Ashwin for all five Tests - including the fourth match at The Oval - the last time India toured England in 2021-22.
Jadeja had minimal impact with the ball in that series, taking six wickets at an average of 56.16 but he compiled 287 runs which included a ton in the rescheduled fifth Test last year.
It is Jadeja’s talents with the bat, rather than the ball, that former Australia skipper Ponting believes could be critical to his spin partner Ashwin being included in the India XI for the WTC Final.
“I actually think they will pick Jadeja and Ashwin,” Ponting said on The ICC Review.
“Jadeja can hold down that No.6 batting spot. His batting has improved that much that they can pick him as a batter that might just bowl a few overs if required.”
Ashwin was in imperious form when India met Australia on home soil earlier this year and took a series-leading 25 wickets to earn the Player of the Series award jointly with Jadeja.
While the pair made the most of pitches suited to spinners in that series, Ashwin has also shown he can perform in all conditions to gather the third-most wickets in the current WTC cycle with 61 scalps in 13 Tests.
The 36-year-old can also add valuable runs for India and has five tons from 92 Tests.
“There is no doubt that Ashwin is a more skilled and better Test bowler than what Jadeja is”, Ponting said.
“But if Jadeja can hold down that batting spot, and then as the game goes on getting into the fourth and fifth day, if it does start to turn, then you've got that really high class second spin bowling option. That's certainly what I'd be doing.”
Australia are expected to select one specialist spinner for the winner-takes-all WTC Final with stalwart Nathan Lyon all but certain to get the nod.
Lyon matched Jadeja’s 22 wickets in the recent Test series between the two WTC finalists and spun Australia to victory in the third clash with match figures of 11/99.
The 35-year-old off-spinner also leads all-comers across the current WTC cycle with 83 wickets from 19 Tests.
“I judge spin on what Indian subcontinental batsmen normally talk about when they talk about facing spin bowling,” Ponting said.
“Everyone I've spoken to from India or Sri Lanka, and those sorts of places, rate Nathan Lyon really highly.”