A lot hinges on batting mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara, who was the star of Indias historic Test series triumph in 2018-19, during the forthcoming Test series in Australia.
The right-handed No.3 batsman, who amassed 521 runs with three centuries and earned the Man-of-the-Series award in 2018-19, got down to batting at the nets for a long session on Thursday to prepare for the Border-Gavaskar series that India are seeking to defend.
Pujara faced net bowlers, who are travelling with the Indian team, as well as regular India bowlers like R Ashwin.
A video posted by the BCCI showed him using the backfoot to good effect as also leaving the deliveries outside the off-stump which had been his forte in the previous series Down Under.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes India’s best side for the first Test of the upcoming four-match series is far from settled and skipper Virat Kohli’s departure during the series will add further uncertainty around the make-up of their side.
India, who are the current holders of Border-Gavaskar Trophy, will be without Kohli for the final three Tests as he will return to India to be with his wife Anushka Sharma who is expecting their first child.
Ponting says that with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner, who were not part of the 2018-19 series, the hosts will be a tougher nut to crack this time around for the Indian team.
“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,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“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 added.
Meanwhile, he believes the Australian team management should stick with Joe Burns as David Warner’s opener for the Adelaide Test.
There have been many calls for the inclusion of 22-year-old batsman Pucovski for the pink-ball Test, including that from former captain Mark Taylor.
Pucovski, who is among the five uncapped players named in the 17-man squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, has made a strong case for selection in the playing XI with back-to-back double centuries for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield. Right-handed Queensland batsman Burns, however, has had a highest of just 29 in his five innings this season.
“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,” 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,” he added.
Ponting has also warned against making changes to a Test side that’s riding a five-match winning streak and is currently placed at the number one spot, despite not having played 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,” said the 45-year-old.