India will "not be clear in their own mind" about their batting order after the departure of talismanic captain Virat Kohli at the end of first Test Down Under, feels Australian great Ricky Ponting. The 32-year-old Kohli has been granted paternity leave by the BCCI to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
"India will feel that without Kohli there (for three Tests), for his batting and leadership, that'll put all sorts of pressure on different players," Ponting was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
"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.
"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?" Ponting added.
The Indian bowling attack will comprise Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in lead roles. The tourists will call on Ishant Sharma if he recovers from the side injury sustained at the IPL while Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini are also part of India's Test squad. With so many options, Ponting feels India will have to answer more questions than the hosts.
"The questions that are being asked around Australia with Pucovski and Green, I think India have got a few more questions to answer.
"Shami, Jasprit Bumrah will it be Ishant, will it be Umesh Yadav, will it be a young guy like Saini or Siraj?
"They've got a lot of questions to ask as well. And which spinner? They've got a few spinners in their squad and they've got to figure out which one to pick for the pink-ball game in Adelaide," Ponting said.
India made history by winning their first Test series on Australian soil in the 2018-19 series. However, the hosts were then without their star batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith, who were were serving bans for their involvement in the 2018 ball-tampering incident. "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 said.
The-45-year-old backed incumbent opener Joe Burns to start ahead of the young Will Pucovski. "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.
"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."
Pucovski is coming off back-to-back double hundreds in the Sheffield Shield and is in sensational form. His inclusion has set up a competition with Burns, who is feeling the heat after a disastrous start to the first-class summer. "But I think that's where this one becomes a unique one; Burns is about 30, and you've got a young guy who seems to be at the peak of his powers, who's been touted as a very good player for Australia and has been for a few years.
"That's where the decision is going to be a really tough one for them."
Head coach Justin Langer and and skipper Tim Paine both have hinted at persisting with the experienced Burns at the top. "I'm just reading the tea leaves a little bit, even with what Justin had to say about the relationship between Burns and Warner, my gut feeling is they won't go to Pucovski just yet.
"But it'll only be a few slip ups from a few players and we know who the next cab off the rank is going to be. (Opening) is just another string to (Pucovski's) bow," Ponting added.