Dubai: Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting has revealed the role he played in helping Axar Patel develop into a damaging batter in the India line-up and paid tribute to the in-form all-rounder by suggesting a shift up the order in the Indian Premier League (IPL) - and at Test level - is on the cards.
Ponting has known the young India all-rounder for some time, with the two first meeting paths last decade when the duo were part of the winning Mumbai Indians squad that captured their first IPL title in 2013. Despite the fact that Ponting and current India captain Rohit Sharma served as Axar's captain that season, he did not make his IPL debut. Instead, he flourished during a successful five-year stint with Kings XI Punjab. He has since further cemented his reputation as one of the best white-ball players in the nation with some outstanding performances for the Delhi Capitals over the last four seasons.
And while it is with the ball that Axar has had the biggest impact in his career, the 29-year-old has impressed recently as an attacking left-handed batter during the Border-Gavaskar Test series against Australia.
Axar helped himself to three half-centuries and former skipper Virat Kohli (297 runs) was the only India batter to score more than the 264 runs he amassed from five innings.
Ponting spoke glowingly of Axar on the most recent episode of The ICC Review, recalling how their relationship first formed in Mumbai some 10 years ago and continues to prosper at the Delhi Capitals.
"I've known Axar for a long time and he was only a young boy in the squad at Mumbai when I first went there. I've known that there's been a certain amount of batting skill there that really, apart from the last couple of years, he hadn't really been showing at IPL level or even at the international level. There were a few little technique changes that we made with him. We just opened up his hips and his shoulders a little bit. So he was a bit more chest-on towards the right-arm fast bowlers," Ponting said in a recent episode of The ICC Review.
Ponting said Axar struggled with the short ball early in his career, but has since turned this apparent weakness into one of his strengths.
"If there was ever a weakness in his game, it was the short ball that was sort of directed at his body. The reason that he was a bit weak in that area was he was too side-on, and the ball was always sort of in behind his right shoulder," Ponting noted.
"We just tried to open him up a little bit, which gave him a little bit more access to the ball. He's always been a beautiful offside player. You know, his cover driving and cutting is as good as anyone's. And if anything, he was just a little bit too blocked off to be able to score well on the leg side," said the Australia great.
"We tweaked a few things there and because he's such a good young person to work with, and he's obviously very talented, so therefore he was a fast learner and was able to pick things up really quickly and change his technique enough to show really, really good improvement really early on," he added.
Ponting has taken notice of Axar's recent success using the bat in Test matches, and the former captain of Australia believes the left-hander will have a new position in the Delhi Capitals club in IPL season.
"I want to get a bit more out of him at the Delhi Capitals this year, that's for sure. A few times last year we sort of batted him up a little bit higher. I think he's good enough to bat No.6 probably in an IPL team," Ponting said.