Pujara scored 106 off 319 balls, while Virat Kohli made 82 off 204 as India declared on 443 for 7 from close to 170 overs. It was Pujara's slowest century, and the slowest first-innings score (for totals more than 300) in Australia for three decades.
“If India go on and win the game, it’ll be a great innings. But if they haven’t got time to bowl Australia out twice, it could be what actually costs them the game,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “I think it’s always hard for India to push the run rate along when Pujara’s there.
“He’s just made another hundred, his second of the series, so he’s playing well and doesn’t really look like getting out. But he just locks himself in this little bubble where scoring doesn’t seem to faze him at all.
“They’ve got other guys in their side who are stroke-makers. But if those guys don’t come off, the scoring rate is always going to be hovering around that two runs an over mark, which makes it pretty hard to win Test matches, especially on flat wickets like we might have here."
Ponting did not agree to suggestions that India were trying to grind Australia's bowlers and fielders, saying India did not show intent to score quickly even while approaching a declaration.
“Even since Pujara’s dismissal, it just seems like they haven’t got a lot of direction about what they’re trying to achieve. It looks like they want to bat long enough to only bat once, but just yet they haven’t got enough runs to do that," he said.
“Obviously they’ve talked long and hard about what they want to do, it’s just a bit baffling to us.
“When presented with opportunities in Test matches to push on and win. I think you have to take them. They shouldn’t be looking forward to next week.”
The former Australia captain also called on the Australian pacers to use the short-ball strategy against Kohli early in his innings. Kohli fell to one such short ball from Mitchell Starc, guiding straight to third man. He was struggling with a back niggle at that stage, but Ponting felt the dismissal was a result of aggressive bowling more than injury.
“The ball before he got out, he played a really good pull shot over mid-on, so he looked like he was moving free enough at that stage,” Ponting said. “I just think it was the intent that was shown. I’d love to see them start more that way against Kohli.
“He doesn’t play too many cross-bat shots early on, so I think that’s maybe something the Australians could look at and target for the rest of the series. It actually forced Kohli, and Pujara to a certain degree, out of their bubble. Both of those guys were in their bubble, they weren’t taking any risks and they were playing the way they wanted to play.
“One spell from Starc with some good short stuff at Kohli, and he started to play a few more shots and just got his eyes spinning a little bit. “He’ll look back and think ‘why on earth did I play that shot?’.
“But it was on the back of some good hostile fast bowling and that’s the reason you play shots like that.”
australia vs india 2018Cheteshwar PujaraIndia vs Australia 2018Mitchell Starcricky pontingvirat kohli
First Published: December 27, 2018, 4:47 PM IST