'We couldn't be more prepared' - Haddin
Brad Haddin has said Australia have mentally recovered from the defeat to New Zealand, and are prepared to face India. "I think we're in a very good space," he said on the eve of the Boxing Day Test. "We've had a week to prepare. We couldn't be more prepared and more looking forward to the game. Boxing Day is a great occasion to walk out on the MCG. As a sportsman it's a highlight to come out in front of sometimes 60-70 thousand. We've had a very good couple of days at our batting camp and we're ready for this."
Haddin has had an ordinary year with the bat, with two half-centuries in 14 innings, although both of them set up wins for the side. At the batting camp in the lead-up to the match, he said, he worked more on the mental side of things. "From my point of view it's not the swinging ball," he said. "It's just making sure my mindset is just playing at the tempo I play at, don't try to take the game forward too quick and just react to the game."
Similarly the three senior batsmen in the line-up, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, have been under pressure, especially with a total experience of five Tests among the top three. "I think it's important that we all stand up," Haddin said. "After our series against New Zealand we are very much looking forward to this. You talk about our inexperienced top three, I think we've got a very in-form top three, which is good, and if we're going to do any good in this series it's going to be from one to seven with the bat. We've all got to perform. We've got to make sure we've got our game heads on and ready to go."
One of those top three is debutant Ed Cowan, Australia's 10th new Test cap this year. "He's very excited like we all are," Haddin said. "The one thing in Ed's favour, he's coming off some very very good form and he is feeling confident. He played the Indians last week. It's an exciting time to make your Test debut and especially Boxing Day. It's a massive event and he'll be up for the challenge. There will obviously be some nervous energy today, tomorrow, but he will deal with that."
Haddin admitted he didn't know quite what to make of the speculation around the fitness of Indian quicks. "I think they rely on the two big boys quite a lot," he said. "With the injury cloud I don't think too much about that with this Indian team. Once they take the field they seem to roll out all right. We know where their strengths are, but we also know there are areas that we can get the game moving forward and develop the game as quick as we like."
Haddin spoke about freeing the mind of too many thoughts now that all the preparation is done and there are fewer than 24 hours to the toss on Boxing Day. He then went off to the Christmas lunch with his team-mates and their families. "It's an exciting time of the year."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo