Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting was critical of Cheteshwar Pujara’s lackluster batting effort in the ongoing Sydney Test, saying the way the veteran has been batting is far from hurting the hosts, rather keeping Tim Paine and his team in the game.
Young opening batsman Shubman Gill and Pujara were the top scorers for India in the first innings but the veteran batsman’s go-slow approach took him 176 balls to score his first 50 of the tour at a strike rate of just 28.41 on Day 3 of the ongoing third Test in Sydney.
Further, India’s middle-order collapse against a relentless Australian attack resulted in the tourists getting bowled out for 244, leaving Australia with a 94-run lead that grew to 197 by stumps on Day 3 with eight wickets still in hand in the ongoing Pink Test of the four-Test series.
Ponting told cricket.com.au: “I think (Pujara) has got to be better than that. He’s 16 off his first 100 balls with no boundaries. That is – and I don’t care who you are – if you’re at the other end and someone is batting like that, so much more pressure comes back on you because you know you have to be the one that’s going to keep the scoreboard ticking over (and) trying to get some momentum going your way as a team.”
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He further added, “If you’re going to play that way and bat that long, he’s got to back himself to make sure he gets 100, 150 at least. To bat like he did today, finally get a great ball from (fast bowler Pat) Cummins, although he got 50, he just hadn’t hurt the Australians at all. In fact, batting like he did actually kept Australia in the game. Although Pujara got the 50 that he got, he’s as guilty as anyone for slack, lackluster batting.”
The Aussie legend further termed India’s batting “poor” as Ajinkya Rahane scored 22 from 70 deliveries and No.5 Hanuma Vihari could only manage 4 from 38 balls before he was sensationally run out by Josh Hazlewood apart from the 176-ball fifty by Pujara.
He noted, “The run-out was good but when you look at the batting around it, it was so poor. (Vihari) was four from 37 balls before that so the pressure was all on, and that’s what led to him trying to take a single that was never there. Yes, it was a great piece of fielding, but he was out by three or four yards.”
Ponting also said there is an intent issue with Pujara, saying “we saw it even against Lyon in the back-half of his innings today, he started using his feet and hitting the ball through the field – he didn’t do that for his first 120-130 balls.”
He further explained, “You can’t tell me it takes you that long to get in and get settled and work out what the wicket’s playing like or what the bowlers are bowling like. He’s got no cross-batted shots at all, he’s got no pull shot, the Aussies are not feeding him on the cut shot.”
Ponting signed off, “He’s got to find a way to score quicker than that because that’s not going to win his team any games. I know people will say ‘he did the same thing out here last time’ but he didn’t. He batted for a long period of time but he scored a lot quicker than what he scored today.”