"My X factor batter will be Pujara because he has done so well in these English conditions" - Monty Panesar
Former England spinner Monty Panesar has backed Cheteshwar Pujara to play a vital role for Team India in the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia. The middle-order batter has been a reliable presence and a thorn for Australia over the years.
Pujara's stint with Sussex in the County Championship arguably turned his career around after he was dropped from the national team following the tour of South Africa in 2022. He was promoted as captain of Sussex as well and prepared for the WTC final with the likes of Steve Smith and Ollie Robinson as his teammates.
Panesar stated that Pujara binds the Indian batting unit together.
"The Indian top order is in form. The conditions will be similar to the Wankhede pitch which is fast and bouncy. My x-factor batter will be Pujara because he has done so well in these English conditions for Sussex. He is the guy who binds this batting line up together," he told PTI.
"He is good with his defence and if the ball is going to do a little bit, he can negotiate the Aussie bowlers and when the pitch is flat, the others can cash in with some attacking cricket."
Pujara has been piling on the runs of late before joining the Indian team. The right-handed batter amassed three centuries in seven County Championship matches following the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India earlier this year.
"I would go with Umesh as the third pacer" - Monty Panesar
With only a couple of days remaining until the WTC final, there is still no clarity over Team India's bowling combination given that there are so many potential options.
The possibility of two spinners playing is as likely as Shardul Thakur being the fourth seamer in the side with the pace trio of Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav likely locked in for the summit clash
Predicting Umesh Yadav to bowl short, intense spells to rattle the opposition, Panesar said:
"It will also be interesting to see who the seamers will be as they have lot of options there as well. India are the stronger side in my opinion on all fronts. As they will get extra batting options with Ashwin and Jadeja, I would go with Umesh as the third pacer."
"He is the guy Rohit can go to and say 'I want you to bowl five overs at 140 plus and rough up the Australian batters'. You will need that extra pace."
India and Australia are slated to lock horns in the WTC final from Wednesday, June 7 onwards at the Oval.
Who will win the WTC final between India and Australia? Let us know what you think.