Ricky Ponting has expressed concern over the mindset of some of Australia's batsmen despite the 15-run victory over West Indies in their group match. Australia lost five wickets for just 79 runs in the face of fast and aggressive short-pitched bowling before Steven Smith partnered with Alex Carey and Nathan Coulter-Nile to steady the innings.
"It's pretty fair to say some of the boys are a bit disappointed with their batting at the top," Ponting said. "But listening to Steve Smith talk about it as well, the wicket was a little bit more uneven than what we thought it might have been, you could see a lot of uneven bounce with the shorter ball in particular.
"The boys found it difficult to play the ball off the back foot. Yes, they led to a couple of dismissals, but it was more the follow-up balls and the mindset around how we played some of the short pitched bowling today that was the biggest concern."
Of particular concern to Ponting was that Usman Khawaja was struck twice by short balls. On the second occasion, he was attempting to pull Andre Russell and he was out edging a loose drive on the next delivery. Khawaja was also hit on the grille of his helmet facing Russell during Australia's warm-up match against West Indies in Southampton and underwent scans on his jaw. Ponting said he hoped to find out if there was an underlying issue.
"That's a big part of my role now - I'm not going to teach him how to play a cover drive or a pull shot, I need to know what's going through his mind in moments like that. What leads to that thinking about playing a shot like that. If I can help in some way just to get him through a situation like that and give him something else or something different to think about, I think that's a huge part of coaching.
"I thought he's looked really good. He started his innings really well today, he punched one down the ground for four early on. He got hit in the head. I'm more concerned to what led to him playing that shot. What was he thinking? Was he expecting another short ball? Was he going to try to help it over backward point? What was he thinking? I'll get to the bottom of it in the next 48 hours."
India's bowling attack will present a different challenge to Australia's batsmen at The Oval on Sunday. After a six-month period in which Australia and India have met in five Tests and five ODIs there will be some familiarity in the contest. But Ponting said that has only increased the Australians' respect for Jasprit Bumrah, in particular.
"I think everyone has learnt he's probably one of the best fast bowlers in the world with a white or a red ball," Ponting said. "They've learnt he can surprise you with pace. They've learnt his control is outstanding as well, which is why he's one of the leading fast bowlers in the world.
"We'll need to be well prepared for him and I'm sure the boys will be, having played as much as they have against him during the summer. "They also pose some pretty strong threats with the spinners as well. They were both pretty good the other day - [Yuzvendra] Chahal and Kuldeep [Yadav]. There's some work for the boys to do. More a mindset thing. I've been really happy with the skills I've seen from all the boys, it's just about getting the mindset right and getting the adaptation of that mindset right between what you need at different times in the game and playing accordingly."
Ponting has been closely involved with several players in the India squad, thanks to coaching stints with Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals in the IPL. When asked if that gave him any insights he could pass on to the Australian players, he made a wry reference to Shane Warne's comments in the Mumbai Mirror that questioned Ponting's involvement in the 2019 tournament on the grounds of conflict of interest.
"I'm going to say I didn't learn anything about any of the Indian batsmen while I was at the IPL otherwise I might not get a gig back there again. Warnie will have me out of a job like he tried to before this year's IPL," Ponting said.
"I coached Rohit Sharma for a couple of years at Mumbai, I had Shikhar Dhawan for a couple of months at Delhi. I didn't learn anything about those guys by being with them in India that I didn't already know before.
"I think I'm a pretty astute watcher of the game and, with batsmen, I'm pretty good at picking why certain batsmen are good at hitting the ball to particular areas. The way they pick up the bat, the way they hold the bat, the backlift, the foot movement - whatever it may be. So I don't think I've learnt anything more about them having been a part of the IPL. It's a different format as well obviously.
"We saw a couple of days ago how good Rohit Sharma is at the top of the order for them, he's a class player. I'm not the only one. Steve Smith's shared dressing rooms with a lot of other players as well. As a coach, yes, I can bring some stuff, but a lot of the players in the team have played with them and against them over the years. If I can add a couple of gold nuggets, I'll try to my best."