Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting seemed baffled with the approach of No. 1 Test team in the ongoing Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Ponting, who has represented Australia in 168 Tests, questioned Pujara’s turtle-paced innings, saying that the knock will be either remembered as a famous match-winning one or the one that cost his side a victory.
None of India’s top five scored at a strike rate of more than 50, with Pujara taking 319 deliveries to score his second century (106) of the series.
“If India go on and win the game, it’ll be a great innings (but) if they haven’t got time to bowl Australia out twice … it could be what actually costs them the game,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“I think it’s always hard for India to push the run rate along when Pujara’s there. He’s just made another hundred, his second of the series, so he’s playing well and doesn’t really look like getting out. But he just locks himself in this little bubble where scoring doesn’t seem to faze him at all.
“They’ve got other guys in their side who are stroke-makers … but if those guys don’t come off, the scoring rate is always going to be hovering around that two runs an over mark, which makes it pretty hard to win Test matches, especially on flat wickets like we might have here.
“Even (since Pujara’s dismissal), it just seems like they haven’t got a lot of direction about what they’re trying to achieve. It looks like they want to bat long enough to only bat once, but just yet they haven’t got enough runs to do that. Obviously they’ve talked long and hard about what they want to do, it’s just a bit baffling to us,” he added.
Ponting also urged the Australian fast bowlers to target Virat Kohli with the short ball for the rest of the series. The former Aussie skipper feels Mitchell Starc’s sustained bouncer barrage forced Kohli ‘out of his bubble’ and “got his eyes spinning a bit”. The Indian captain scored 82 off 204 balls in India’s first innings and shared a 170-run stand with Pujara.
“The ball before he got out, he played a really good pull shot over mid-on, so he looked like he was moving free enough at that stage,” Ponting said.
“I just think it was the intent that was shown. I’d love to see them start more that way against Kohli. He doesn’t play too many cross-bat shots early on (in his innings), so I think that’s maybe something the Australians could look at and target for the rest of the series.
“(It) actually forced Kohli, and Pujara to a certain degree, out of their bubble. Both of those guys were in their bubble, they weren’t taking any risks and they were playing the way they wanted to play.
“One spell from Starc with some good short stuff at Kohli (and) he started to play a few more shots and just got his eyes spinning a little bit. He’ll look back and think ‘why on earth did I play that shot?’. But it was on the back of some good hostile fast bowling and that’s the reason you play shots like that,” he explained.
India declared their first innings on 443/7 at MCG. Australian finished the second day on 8/0, with openers Marcus Harris and Finch batting on 5* and 3* respectively.