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.
According to the former Australia skipper, once Kohli goes, India will not be “clear in their own mind” with their batting order even for the first Test – a day-night fixture slated to be played at the Adelaide Oval from December 17.
“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?” said Ponting.
“(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.
Meanwhile, he believes the Australian team management should stick with Joe Burns as David Warner’s opener for the Adelaide Test.
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.