Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting on Thursday questioned Cheteshwar Pujara for his slow scoring rate in the 3rd Test at MCG, despite the Indian batsman registering his 17th Test hundred. The former batsman said that Pujara’s 319-ball innings could cost India the match. “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 was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
None of India’s top five batsmen scored at a run rate of over 50, with Pujara soaking over 300 deliveries to reach 106. The two-time World Cup winning skipper said that India cannot score at a fast pace with Pujara in the middle.
“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,” he said.
Ponting said that scoring at two runs per over can make winning Test matches hard on flat decks such as the one at MCG. “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,” he said.
“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 further said that India might be looking to draw this game to push for a win in Sydney in the 4th Test, but added that it is not a smart strategy. “When presented with opportunities in Test matches to push on and win … I think you have to take them. They shouldn’t be looking forward to next week,” he said.
The 44-year-old further advised Aussie seamers to target Indian batsman with bouncers, which generated the dismissal of Virat Kohli on 82.
“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,” he said.
“(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,” Ponting added.
India declared for 443/6 but failed to struck a wicket in the remaining overs of the 2nd Day. Australia reached 8/0 at Stumps, with Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris in the middle.