Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting feels that India has the best chance for winning the first Test of the India vs Australia series is far from settled. Indian skipper, Virat Kohli’s departure has added more uncertainty around the make-up of their side, according to him.
Kohli would be returning home after the first Test on a paternity leave. The current holders of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, Team India, will be without him for the last three Tests. It was under Kohli’s captaincy that India won their maiden Test title on Australian soil in the 2018-19 season.
At that time, Steve Smith and David Warner weren’t a part of the Australian team. Ponting says that their return would make Australia a tough competitor to beat this time for India. “The one thing we haven’t spoken enough about is yes India were really good here last time, but with those guys (Smith and Warner) missing at the top of the order, that leaves a big gap in any team,” he told cricket.com.au.
Ponting feels that Kohli’s absence will put pressure on vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who would ideally fill in Kohli’s shoes for the matches. “India will feel that without Kohli there (for three Tests), for his batting and leadership, that will put all sorts of pressure on different players. You’d think (Ajinkya) Rahane will take over the captaincy, which will put extra pressure on him, and they’ve got to find someone to bat at that really important No.4 spot,” he said.
Ponting says that Team India won’t be “clear in their own mind” in regards to their batting order even in the first day-night match. The first Test is scheduled for December 17th at the Adelaide Oval.
“I don’t think they’ll be clear in their own mind, even now, what their batting order will look like for the first Test. Who’s going to open, who’ll bat at four when Kohli goes?” he said.
Ponting feels that India have a few more questions to answer than Australia. “(Fast bowlers Mohammad) Shami, Jasprit Bumrah – will it be Ishant (Sharma), with it be Umesh Yadav, will it be a young guy like (Navdeep) Saini or (Mohammad) Siraj? The questions that are being asked around Australia with (Will) Pucovski and (Cameron) Green, I think India have got a few more questions to answer,” he added.
“A lot people are forgetting what happened last summer,” Ricky Ponting on Burns or Pucovski debate
The biggest question in front of Cricket Australia right now is to select between Joe Burns and Will Pucovski to open the batting Tests with David Warner. Ricky Ponting believes that the Australian team management should stick with Joe Burns.
“Burns hasn’t done much wrong. If you go back to last summer, he played really well in the first Test in Brisbane and I remember saying then to lock him in and give him a good go at it for a while,” he said.
A lot of calls came in for the inclusion of 22-year old Pucovski in the pink-ball Test in Adelaide. One of them included that of former Australia captain Mark Taylor. Pucovski is among the five uncapped players named in the 17 man squad for the Border-Gavaskar trophy. He has made a strong case for his selection in the playing XI after smashing back-to-back double centuries for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield. Queensland batsman, Joe Burns, on the other hand has had a highest of just 29 in his five innings this season.
However, Ricky Ponting said, “We read a lot into what’s happened in the first few rounds of Shield cricket, and because they haven’t played a Test match for so long, a lot people are forgetting what happened last summer.”
Ponting has also warned about making any changes in the Test team that’s riding on a five-match winning streak. Australia is currently placed at the top in Test cricket despite not playing since early January. “The boys have been on a roll with their performances in Test cricket and I always say you don’t want to be making too many changes if you don’t need to,” he said.
However, the 45-year old thinks it is going to be a “really tough” decision to choose between Joe Burns and Will Pucovski in the opening slot.
The final three Tests will be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (December 26-30), the Sydney Cricket Ground (January 7-11) and the Brisbane Gabba (January 15-19).
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