Ponting mindful of India taking the bouncer route against Australia

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“Usman got hit again … so he’s had a few hits in the last few weeks.” © Getty

After watching West Indies skilfully employ the bouncer barrage against Pakistan and Australia, and Australia’s own struggles against the short ball, assistant coach Ricky Ponting reckons India could take that route when the two teams meet in a high-profile clash on Sunday (June 8) at the Oval in London.

Ponting felt India could go as far as to tweak their playing XI – that scored a win over South Africa in their campaign-opener – hinting at the inclusion of Mohammed Shami, who can also get his pacy short balls trouble the Aussie top order.

“Bumrah we know is a very good new-ball bowler and I’m sure he’ll mix it up and bowl some short stuff and some full stuff,” Ponting told Cricket.com.au.

“Bhuvneshwar will probably not worry you too much with his pace or his bouncers. Hardik can maybe rush you a little bit, so maybe they have a decision to make on the overall make up of their side. Do they maybe go with only the one spinner and use (off-spinning all-rounder) Kedar Jadav as a second spinner and play another fast bowler?,” Ponting added.

Australia, who had knocked India out in the 2015 World Cup semifinal before going on to clinch the title, made a statement start to their title defence, against Afghanistan, but were pushed to the wall in their second game against West Indies. While Steve Smith stamped his class with a 103-ball 73 in tough conditions against West Indies, the rest of the top-five had scores of 3, 6, 13 and 0.

Before the teams go into Saturday’s clash, Ponting hopes to have chats with his top order about their ordeal facing the bouncer and a way to get them past it. Usman Khawaja, who was struck on the helmet in the warm-up game against West Indies last month, suffered another blow during the match. The impact of short-pitched bowling was quite telling on the otherwise in-form top-order batsmen in his eventual awkward dismissal.

“Usman got hit again … so he’s had a few hits in the last few weeks. I haven’t spoken to him (to see) if he’s rattled, but that’s part and parcel of top order batting against brand new balls against guys who are bowling 140 kph an hour,” Ponting said.

The former World Cup-winning captain also expressed his confidence in the all-round abilities of Marcus Stoinis, and was particularly pleased with the all-rounder’s contribution with the ball at the death.

“I just like the overall package with him,” Ponting said in a press conference. “He’s probably our best outfielder, you saw what he can do with the ball at the death, he gives us another string to our bow as far as his death bowling is concerned. I’m working with him a lot on a daily basis and I think he can have a big impact on this World Cup.”

While Stoinis has ticked all the bowling boxes so far, there’s much left to be desired as far as batting is concerned. Ponting revealed he was already on the task of getting him to improve his batting game – specifically at the start of the innings when he tends to take a while before settling in.

“If there’s been a knock on his batting, it’s been that he’s been a bit of a shaky nervous starter and takes a lot of balls to get moving. (Against the West Indies) he didn’t (look nervous)… he was nice and sharp. He hit the ball nicely down the ground, he hit a really good pull shot early on. I had a chat to him just after he got out and he was pretty disappointed to get out the way he did. We’ve been doing a lot of work on that sort of stuff with his batting.”

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