Domain Tests v India
Ponting's scoreline tip for Test series
Former Aussie skipper backs hosts in a tight contest and predicts big things for Khawaja
29 November 2018, 07:16 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting, the Nostradamus who correctly predicted last summer's Ashes series ledger, has given a fresh forecast for the forthcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy along with the bold declaration that Usman Khawaja will outscore Virat Kohli.
After accurately tipping Australia to defeat England 4-0 last year, Ponting has tipped a 2-1 series result in favour of the home side for the four-match Domain Test campaign against India while suggesting Khawaja and Josh Hazlewood will be the two standout performers.
Kohli's four centuries and 692 runs at 86.50 on India's last Test tour to Australia four years ago was topped only by Steve Smith, but Ponting believes Khawaja's superb recent campaign against Pakistan has him primed to take a further leap in Smith and David Warner's absence.
Speaking to cricket.com.au, the former Test skipper said the Queenslander will not only be the leading run scorer against India, but also the player of the series.
"He's on top of his game, his record in Australia is outstanding," Ponting said of Khawaja. "As much of a threat that the Indian fast bowlers might pose, I think he's got a game that can cope with it here in Australia.
"I'm going with him to be the leading run scorer and man of the series.
"Right now he's in a really good place, the selectors backed him through that UAE tour, gave him a chance and he came out (better) on the other side of that.
"With the skill that he's got and maybe a bit more belief in his own game than ever before, I think he's got the perfect package to have a great summer."
Ponting's 2-1 series projection is one made firstly with history in mind; India have never won a Test series down under in 11 attempts, while they've won only five of 44 Tests in Australia.
But it's also offered with a plea to curators around the country to produce lively or even fast-bowler friendly wickets, in Adelaide and Perth in particular where the opening two Tests will be played.
Although it is set to host a non day-night Test for the first time in four years, Adelaide Oval has typically sported a healthy layer of grass in recent summers and Ponting doesn’t expect that to change markedly.
He also notes the new Perth Stadium, which will host its maiden Test, has offered lively tracks for ODIs against England and South Africa this year.
"I'd love to see the pitches have a little bit in them because I think our batters will bat better against their (bowlers) with something in them than their (batters) will against ours," Ponting explained.
"We're talking 40 years of history with India coming to Australia and not being able to win because of the fast, bouncy nature of our pitches so I'd love to see them that way.
"If it's a wicket in Perth like I saw for the one-dayer against South Africa then I can't see India making too many at all – that was a one-dayer and that (pitch) went all over the shop, with good pace and good bounce.
"With Adelaide being like it's been the last couple of years, having a little bit more grass in the surface (will suit Australia).
"I'd like to see a little bit of grass left on them for the first two and then I think Australian can put the series to bed after two Tests."
And that extra life in the surfaces, Ponting says, will give Khawaja the upper hand over Kohli.
"(Khawaja) will just pip Kohli," said Ponting. "Kohli will play well I'm sure because he does everywhere he goes and had a great series against Australia last time.
"Just where they're starting in Adelaide and Perth – if they leave something in them, Kohli is a bit more vulnerable in those conditions than Melbourne and Sydney."
In addition to his endorsement of Khawaja, Ponting foresees Hazlewood as the series' leading wicket taker.
The metronomic quick's haul of 21 wickets in last summer's Ashes was narrowly edged by pace partners Pat Cummins (23 wickets) and Mitchell Starc (22), but Ponting believes conditions will make him the greatest threat to India.
"Adelaide and Perth will suit him down to the ground with the way he bowls and the way he presents the seam in those venues," he continued.
"Being six (foot) five or six (foot) six (tall) as well, he'll exploit the bounce that a lot of Indians won't be comfortable with."
Ponting's prophecy for a near sweep of England last year was coupled with a few well-directed barbs aimed at Sir Ian Botham and Graeme Swann, who had cast doubt over the strength of Australia's batting.
His prediction this year however was delivered with a measure of respect for world No.1 ranked India, especially their bowlers, though he ultimately believes the hosts' top order will out-bat their counterparts.
"Basically, it comes down to whichever team bats the best," said Ponting.
"Both fast bowling attacks are good but I think our batsmen will play better against their quicks than their batters will play against ours."
"India need to get off to a really good start (in the series).
"If they get behind the eight ball if those first two games then … they might fight back and win one Sydney or Melbourne, but it will be too late."
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: First Test, Adelaide Oval
Dec 14-18: Second Test, Perth Stadium
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar