Ricky Ponting has picked Kolkata wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa over MS Dhoni in his team of the year, citing the former’s ability to score from the get-go as the reason for his choice. The former Aussie captain, unsurprisingly, opted to go for two Indian pacers in his best XI for this season’s IPL.
In a position that has been dominated by MS Dhoni for a few years now, Ricky Ponting decided to give Uthappa the nod ahead of his compatriot. While Dhoni finished with just 290 runs in the season compared to Uthappa’s 388, Ponting explained that the approach to the game had changed and it was important for the players to start making an impact from the very first ball their face.
“He’s (Uthappa) a guy whose strike-rate is incredible this year, 165 for the entire tournament. You need those guys in the middle-order to be able to score quickly right from the start. You don’t have that luxury anymore in the T20 game to be able to play yourself in and work the ball around. You have to go in and dominate right from the start and I think that’s what he’s been able to do really well,” Ponting told Cricket Australia.
For the opening slots Ponting decided to use two of his overseas’ players with David Warner and Hashim Amla making the cut. The Aussie opener was the easy choice for his compatriot considering he was the leading run scorer of the tournament with 641 runs at an astonishing average of 58.27 and a strike rate of 141.81. While Amla has not been seen as a traditional T20 player in the past, this season the South African shocked everyone by putting the numbers up on the board at an average of 60 and a strike rate of 145.83.
“He’s (Warner) just been in complete control of his game for a number of years now in the IPL. He thrives on extra responsibility and leadership. Davey’s led the side really well. I’ll actually name him captain as well on the back of what he’s done the last couple of seasons,” Ponting added.
“He (Amla) got a chance as a replacement player at the back-end of last season with the Kings XI, but this year played the best that I think anyone has ever seen him play, whether it be in an international T20 game or in the IPL. He’s the only man in the tournament to score two hundreds (in IPL10) and has got them pretty quickly.”
Following the openers are two Indian stars whose consistency was on show yet again. While Gautam Gambhir led his side to the second qualifier, Suresh Raina was let down by a weak bowling attack as they finished seventh on the table. The duo scored a combined 940 runs this year with Ponting reserving special praise for Gambhir for managing to put up the numbers in spite of changing his batting positions.
“I said before the finals started that I’m a bit surprised that he’s (Gambhir)batting in that number three position considering what he’s done at the top of the order for Kolkata for a long time. He’s ended up with nearly 500 runs … that’s a reasonable tournament. I’ve said for a long time that the number three position in T20 cricket is the hardest spot to bat because you’ll generally go in at the loss of a very early wicket and be expected to hit boundaries straight away,” Punter explained.
“He’s (Raina) just a class T20 player (and) a classy short-form player. He’s got a great one-day record for India as well. (While) he’s got the ability to really dominate spin-bowling. In that role in the middle-order is generally when most of the spinners are bowling, and he’s got the ability to really dominate there.”
The 3-time World Cup winning cricketer had no problem in naming Ben Stokes, who was named the MVP for the entire tournament, as one of his all-rounders due to the Englishman’s 12 wickets in 12 games and 316 runs with the bat which included a century. The second option, however, is a slightly dodgy one with Ponting showing confidence in Hardik Pandya over his brother Krunal Pandya. Pandya Sr. scored 243 runs while claiming 10 wickets while Hardik scored 250 runs and took 6 wickets.
“The MVP for the entire tournament (and) the guy that was most talked about before the tournament started was Ben Stokes. (He’s) on a huge deal with the Supergiants and has probably earned every cent of it to be fair. Twelve wickets in 12 games, made that big hundred as well. The thing about him is he does bring that real X-factor to their line-up and he’s someone you can rely on to bowl four overs. He can also make a hundred in the middle-order. I know they paid a lot of money for him but I’m sure they’re pretty happy that they did. Unfortunately for them he wasn’t around for the finals. When it comes down to what it came down to on that last ball of the game, not having your X-factor player there, they sadly missed him,” Ponting said.
“One guy I’m happy to name in the side is Hardik Pandya, the young allrounder from the Mumbai Indians. I’ve had a chance to work a lot with him the last couple of years. He had a dream-start two seasons ago, (but) found things a bit tougher last year. The thing that I liked was when it was his turn to step up and bowl a couple of overs, either with the new ball or towards the back-end of the innings, he was able to do it and do it well. He closed out a couple of games (with the ball) as well. He’s a pretty complete package now.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar(26 wickets) and Jaydev Unadkat(24 wickets) make an interesting pair of specialist bowlers. While Bhuvneshwar has had the advantage of bowling in Hyderabad more often, considering it was a slightly bowler-friendly pitch, Unadkat impressed Ponting with his flexibility in varying conditions and particularly his variations. While one was the leading wicket taker of the season of the season, the other was not far behind, having played a lower number of games.
“If you wind the clock back five or six years, this guy (Unadkat) was touted as the next Indian opening bowler in Test cricket, one-day cricket and T20 cricket. He’s got the ability to swing the ball around as we saw through this tournament and he’s got very good slower ball skills as well. He did a terrific job for his team in varying conditions with new ball and old ball, that’s the sort of flexibility you need in your team as far as your fast bowlers are concerned,” the Aussie said of Unadkat.
His bowling contingent consisted of two leggies, Imran Tahir and Rashid Khan. Ponting pointed out the difference in their economy rate, with Rashid being miserly in his runs while Tahir was slightly expensive, as the difference between the two players. However, both players showed their effectiveness with Rashid ending up with 17 wickets in 14 matches while Tahir claimed 18 in 12 games that he played.
“I’ve actually named two leg-spinners in the side, one that started the tournament really well (was) Rashid Khan. One thing you see with the spinners – and certainly the good spinners in T20 cricket – is even if they don’t take a lot of wickets, their economy-rate is always quite low,” Ponting said while explaining the selection of Rashid Khan.
“(Tahir’s) runs-per-over is slightly higher – 7.85 – which is a little on the high side for a top-class spinner in the IPL but … 12 games, 18 wickets (speaks for itself). You know when you bring these leg-spinners on through those middle-overs that they are going to create some opportunities for you and Imran Tahir has been around for a long, long time.”
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