New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) As India seemed to struggle against a dominant Australia in the first two days of the World Test Championship (WTC) Final at The Oval, London, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has expressed his belief that India let themselves down in the first hour of the opening day of the one-off Test.
Australia maintained their pole position on Thursday, posting 469 in the first innings, thanks to Travis Head's 163 and Steve Smith's 121 and polished bowling performance from their four fast bowlers, as they reduced Rohit Sharma-led side to 151/5.
"I think where they let themselves down was in the first hour yesterday and bowling too short. With the wicket conditions, the overhead conditions they had and the brand-new Dukes ball, they had to bowl fuller and get the ball driven back down the ground," Ponting told the ICC.
"They needed to have Australia four or five down at lunch and they only had them two down which was a pretty good result (for Australia)," he added.
Ponting said that moments before the toss, he noticed a deep discussion between India's head coach Rahul Dravid and the team's captain.
India left out Ravi Ashwin from the playing XI and instead fielded a pace-heavy bowling attack. Unfortunately, this strategy did not yield the desired results in the first innings as Travis Head and Steve Smith notched up centuries, forging an impressive 285-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
"I know the captain wears the brunt of it (criticism), b't I know it's not only his decision," Ponting noted.
"I saw Rahul Dravid and him out (Rohit) in the middle yesterday morning and they had a long discussion about what they wanted to do at the toss."
"If they wanted to bowl first I think they had to play the four seamers. So far you would say it hasn't paid off - but there is a long way to go and we 'robably shouldn't be too quick to judge," he said.
Amidst India's struggles over the past two days, Mohammed Siraj has emerged as a solitary shining star.
The pacer was a major catalyst for India's improved performance with the ball on the second day, picking up four valuable wickets.
Siraj bowled a series of short-pitched deliveries and also engaged in a few intense staring contests on the pitch.
"I loved seeing that and he looks like the ultimate competitor," Ponting said of Siraj.
"Maybe sometimes he gets carried away and goes a little bit over the top, but you need those guys in your side when things aren't going well.
"He was the one today who said I am going to be the guy that is going to turn things around and what I loved was that his pace didn't drop at all during the whole innings.
"From the first ball yesterday morning until late this afternoon, his pace was hovering around that 86 or 87-mile-an-hour mark and that says a lot about a great attitude," he said.
At Stumps on Day 2, India are still trailing Australia by 318 runs with five wickets left in their innings. Rahane and KS Bharat remained not out on 29 and 5 respectively.
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