Domain Tests v India
Ponting selects his Aussie first Test XI
Former skipper names his line-up for India opener, suggests Finch should open for Vics
26 November 2018, 09:26 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting has thrown his support behind Aaron Finch to open the batting in the upcoming Domain Test series against India, calling for Victoria to let him take on the new ball in their JLT Sheffield Shield clash despite indications he won't.
Ponting has exclusively revealed the side he would pick for Australia's series opener against India in Adelaide next week, backing Finch to bat at the top despite being set to bat down the order in a rare Shield match for Victoria from Tuesday.
The former Test captain, a close confidante of head coach Justin Langer, tipped uncapped opener Marcus Harris to partner Finch in the Test team and Travis Head to retain his place in the middle order.
According to Ponting, Australia would be best served pushing Usman Khawaja down to No.3 after he and Finch formed a successful partnership in Australia's most recent series against Pakistan in October.
Ricky Ponting's XI for the first Test: Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine (c/wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
The Marsh brothers retain their spots in Ponting's XI despite lean campaigns in the UAE, with Head picked to slot in between the pair at five and edge out recalled batsman Peter Handscomb.
Finch, who made a successful start to his Test career against Pakistan in the UAE in October by averaging 45 over four innings, has downplayed the importance of where he bats in the order, while both Victoria captain Handscomb and coach Andrew McDonald have indicated they're keen to keep their incumbent openers Harris and Travis Dean together.
"Victoria don't want to break up their opening partnership – I think they should for Aaron Finch's benefit," Ponting told cricket.com.au. "I think they should let him open for one game and slide Travis Dean down.
"Just to give him red ball (practice) opening the batting before he goes into the Test match.
"If the coach asked Aaron Finch where he'd rather bat, I'm sure he'd say he'd want to open.
"Finch is a bit of an anomaly really that the last few years he's done most of his batting for Victoria in the middle order. Then because they go to the UAE where conditions probably weren't going to be that new-ball friendly they gave him the chance to open.
"So he deserves to stay in the team and open.
"He's had a lot of success around the world opening the batting in T20s and one day internationals – if he can go in with a similar mindset and not worry too much about opening the batting in a Test match in Australia against the red ball, I'm sure he'll have some success."
Ponting believes Harris, who has struck 437 runs at 87 in four Shield games this summer, is the right choice to partner Finch.
"I remember when he first came into the WA side, speaking to Justin Langer about him and he thought he was potentially an Australian player in the making," Ponting explained.
"Things didn't really work out for him in WA (but) he decides to move to Victoria and his last few seasons have been very good.
"No batsmen have really dominated domestic Sheffield Shield cricket over the last few years but if you look at the numbers and the way he's performed this year, he deserves his chance to be opening the batting."
Should Harris become Australia's 456th Test player in Adelaide and partner Finch at the top of the order, it would not only be the side's fifth opening combination in as many Tests, it would also spell the end of the successful Finch-Khawaja union, one of the bright spots of the Pakistan series.
Khawaja was promoted to the opening slot for the two-Test campaign and answered questions over his ability on foreign soil with a match-saving century in Dubai, while he has also averaged nearly 60 at No.3 on home turf over the past three summers.
Ponting, who labelled Khawaja Australia's "best batsman by a street" before the Pakistan series, believes the Queenslander's heroic innings could spur him to new heights no matter where he bats in the coming years.
"I've been a huge fan of Khawaja's for a long time, probably outspokenly so, a lot of people have been quite critical of him over the years," Ponting said.
"Sometimes there's guys you just have to stick with, you just have to pick them and give them a go. I know he had a bad run in the subcontinent but so did I, for the first part of my career.
"Suddenly you start to work it out and like he showed in the UAE, he played one of the all-time great rear-guard innings an Australian has ever played.
"Let's hope it's the making of him, not just for this summer but for the next five or so years."
Ponting's line-up would see four left-handers among Australia's top five, a potential red flag should ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin be picked for India given his effectiveness against lefties.
But the 43-year-old believes Australia shouldn't be concerned, saying: "They've just got to pick their best batting line-up, simple as that.
"Don't worry if they're all left handed or if they're all right handed," he added. "They've got to find guys who are good consistent run-scorers, not just now, but there's an Ashes series not far away and they need to show some faith in who they believe are the right people."
India Tour of Australia 2018-19
Gillette T20s v India
First T20: Australia won by four runs (DLS method)
Second T20: No result
Third T20: November 25, SCG
Domain Tests v India
First Test: December 6-10, Adelaide Oval
Second Test: December 14-18, Perth Stadium
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 3-7, SCG
Gillette ODI Series v India
First ODI: January 12, SCG (D/N)
Second ODI: January 15, Adelaide Oval (D/N)
Third ODI: January 18, MCG (D/N)