Ponting's Big Bash bolter tip for the T20 World Cup
Three-times ODI World Cup winner Ricky Ponting names the Big Bash star he 'really likes' that could fill the gap that selectors are 'losing the most sleep over'
28 May 2021, 05:31 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting has declared Australia's wicketkeeping spot at this year's T20 World Cup up for grabs and suggested the uncapped Josh Inglis could be in the mix, despite missing out on the preliminary squad named for the upcoming tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh.
Alex Carey, Matthew Wade and Josh Philippe were all named in an extended 23-man squad that will be further trimmed before the five T20s and three ODIs against the West Indies in July, and the five T20s to follow in Dhaka.
The Aussies face some familiar questions ahead of the ICC's showpiece T20 event scheduled for October and November – with an upcoming ICC meeting to determine if it will be held in India or the United Arab Emirates – and the limited-overs tour of the Caribbean is the next opportunity to shape their team structure.
Ponting, who has been part of Australia's T20 coaching staff in recent years and was an assistant for the ODI World Cup in 2019, believes the lower-order 'finisher' role remains a headache despite there being no lack of experienced candidates.
And of equal concern, believes the former captain, is identifying the best option to take the gloves.
Carey was dropped from Australia's T20 side last September for the final game of the white-ball tour of England, and Wade has stood behind the stumps for their past nine T20 Internationals.
To complicate matters, Carey – who retained his national contract for the 2021-22 season while Wade did not – was unavailable for selection for the most recent T20 series in New Zealand due to his selection for the subsequently-cancelled Test tour of South Africa.
Philippe, the KFC BBL player of the tournament who made his international debut against the Kiwis as a specialist top-order batter, is another option, but Ponting suggested Australia should not be so quick to discount Inglis.
"The keeper-batsman is probably the slot they'd be losing the most sleep over right now," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"They've still got some questions to answer as far as what their overall squad looks like and I think the biggest one is 'Who is going to be standing behind the stumps with the gloves on?'
"They have tried a few blokes – Wade has been there, Phillipe has just played as a batter, Alex Carey has been in and out and tried in a few different batting spots.
"Josh Inglis' name could be thrown into the ring as well – I really liked what I saw from him batting in the middle order in last summer's BBL.
"He plays spin really well and you think about where the World Cup is going to be (in India or the UAE), he could be a name that could come up (for selection)."
A large part of the question for selectors is where they want the team's keeper to bat.
Australia dropped Wade for the previous T20 World Cup in 2016, instead going for left-field candidate Peter Nevill who selectors rated as the best pure keeper, while Tim Paine was also tried in subsequent years.
But dynamic batting now appears a pre-requisite for the T20 job.
Both Wade and Philippe have almost exclusively batted in the top three during their recent stints in the side, though the returns of David Warner and Steve Smith to the side would likely squeeze them out of a top-order berth.
Carey on the other hand has batted at No.5 or below in all but four of his 18 T20I innings and Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie has previously shown a willingness to bat him lower in the Big Bash to further those Australian ambitions.
Meanwhile, Perth Scorchers gloveman Inglis transitioned seamlessly from his opening spot in BBL09 to a middle-order role during last summer's BBL10 amid a breakout season in all three formats.
Unearthing a reliable middle or lower-order player in their keeper could kill two birds with one stone, given Ponting's concern over Australia's inability to find their answer to MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya or Kieron Pollard.
"The spot I think they've always been worried about is that finishing role, and one of the reasons for that is that all of our best batsmen bat in the top four in the Big Bash, so you've actually got no one that's consistently batting in that area," explained Ponting.
"It's a very specialist position to be able to go in with three of four overs to go, with 50 runs needed and be able to do it.
"Dhoni has been in that one spot his whole career and no wonder he's so good at it. Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard are similar – these guys continually win games of cricket for their country and in the IPL, they're used to going in batting at those spots.
"That's what we've got to find. Is it going to be (Glenn) Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh that are going to finish the games, is it going to be (Marcus) Stoinis? I think that's the area that they're more worried about.
"The top order will look after itself because everyone is batting in the top order in Big Bash."
The likes of Ashton Turner and Ben McDermott have purposely sought out finishing roles in the BBL in recent seasons, though McDermott has since gone back to the top of the Hobart Hurricanes order.
Others like Dan Christian, Daniel Sams, Jordan Silk and Jimmy Peirson have become specialists at batting in the closing stages of an innings, while Stoinis has had success lower in the order under Ponting's guidance at his Indian Premier League side, Delhi Capitals.
Ponting, who is currently under quarantine in a Sydney hotel after the IPL was suspended amid a COVID outbreak, suggested more players could benefit from batting at the death regularly, but admitted convincing BBL teams to demote their best players would be tough.
"It has to be a direction from the Australian team selectors, because if teams are being picked on Big Bash (form) then obviously if you're batting at five and six, you're going to look up at the end of the series and see they're not at the top of the run scorers," said Ponting.
"But the other thing is, if I'm (coach) Adam Voges at Perth Scorchers, I don't want Mitchell Marsh batting at six when the game is on the line.
"So these are the challenges aren't they?
"I think the guys have got the skills to bat there. I saw Stoinis at Delhi last year, he's opened the last few years of BBL and done a great job for the Melbourne Stars, but I needed someone that could finish games for us and he won two or three games off his own bat.
"So, it's there – but they will get better at it the more they do it. How they find a way for these guys to do it more, I'm not sure."