Former skipper Ricky Ponting said Australia desperately need David Warner back at the top and their best batsmen Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne firing again if they are to bounce back from the humbling defeat in the Boxing Day Test against India.
After making just 191 in the first innings of the previous Test in Adelaide and requiring unplayable spells of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins to pull off a victory there, the hosts were bundled out for just 195 and 200 inside four days as they went down by a margin of 8 wickets in the second game.
"They need Warner back, they need Smith to score runs, they need Labuschange to find the form of last summer as well," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"(Labuschagne) has not looked to be in as good a touch as he was last summer and those three players are just so vitally important to this Australian line up, it's as simple as that."
"We saw the last tour out here (in 2018-19) with Smith and Warner not being there how frail Australia looked then."
"Right now, Smith basically hasn't been there, Warner hasn't been there and Marnus has made a couple of 40s but had all sorts of luck and not been able to capitalise. It just goes to show how important they are."
Warner has been recovering from a groin strain he picked up at the start of the summer. The left-hand batsman, however, is understood to be running fine and batting well in the nets as well. And considering there is a nine-day gap to the New Year's Test starting January 7, Warner looks set to return to the XI.
So does back-up opener Will Pucovski after battling concussion if former batsman and his Victoria coach Chris Rogers is to be believed. Rogers told 'SEN 1116' that Pucovski is now "symptom-free" and ready to play.
Ponting said if both Warner and Pucovski are deemed good to go, it is Joe Burns and Travis Head who will be facing the axe.
"I think it's pretty obvious – if Warner's fit then Burns just goes out," he said. "I'm sure there'll be some talk about does (Matthew) Wade stay at the top or do we bring in another opener if it's Pucovski or (Marcus) Harris."
"Do you go with two settled openers and slot Wade back down in the middle and someone like Travis Head misses out?"
"It's hard for me to say what's going to happen because I don't know what's available but I think the questions right now will be Burns, and I'm sure there will be a few (other) questions – I've been hearing them today – about Travis Head's spot in the team."
"I would hope they stick with Head. I don't think they'd be wanting to make too many changes in the middle of a series but the selectors … they've got more questions to answer now than they have had in a long, long time. They've got a lot of talking, a lot of thinking to do over the next few days."
The batting could be rejigged but Ponting also expects better intent from whoever is at the crease and put the pressure back on the Indian bowlers.
"It's all about partnerships and they haven't had any partnerships through the first couple of games," Ponting said. "The cracks are probably painted over from Adelaide. (Australia) made 191 there, 195 and 200 here. That's not batting in Test match cricket. And the worry I've got is how long it takes them to get those runs. That's my issue."
"They've scored at two-and-a-half runs an over in Adelaide and here (in Melbourne) and they did (that) against India in the last series out here (and) that was also another losing series."
"They've got to show some more intent. They can't be scared of getting out. They've got to go out there and bat and score runs and they've got to get them quicker than two-and-a-half runs an over because what we've seen from Adelaide to here, if they're trying to apply themselves and bat for long periods of time they haven't been good enough to do that."
"I think they need to have a good look at how they're playing, a look at their personnel. They've got a lot of work to do. Whoever they pick in the next XI it's going to be a great test of character for all of them," he concluded.