Captain wary of Harbhajan threat January 1, 2008

Ponting keen for more Sydney success

Ricky Ponting was happy with his net session ahead of the Sydney Test after scoring 4 and 3 in Melbourne © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting believes he can overcome the persistent threat of Harbhajan Singh despite falling early to the offspinner in the second innings in Melbourne. Harbhajan has dismissed Ponting six times in seven Tests and will play a crucial role alongside Anil Kumble as India attempt to level the series in Sydney.

Harbhajan joked at the MCG he hadn't seen enough of Ponting to have a plan for him on this tour, but it is a serious matter for Australia's captain. "He's got a great record in Tests against me," Ponting said of Harbhajan. "He got me first ball last week."

The 2001 contest, when Ponting scored 17 runs and slipped five times against Harbhajan in three Tests, is one of his few international scars, but he is not bothered by the problems against offspin. "It's a long time from that series in India six years ago, where he had the measure of me," Ponting said. "But it could be my turn here. It's just a matter of time before I get some runs."

Ponting picked up two half-centuries against Sri Lanka in November, but was the only Australian batsman to miss out in Melbourne, scoring 4 and 3. "I have got a good record here, I've made five hundreds on this ground," he said. "Hopefully that can be the case this week. It was lean last week, I had almost as many catches as runs. But I had a good net, I'm coming off a couple of hundreds in the ODIs [against New Zealand] and I'm feeling good to go."

The slow start has not convinced India to downgrade the Ponting threat and Kumble remains wary. Kumble knows how potent Harbhajan is against Ponting, but will wait to decide whether to bring him on as soon as the captain enters.

"It all depends on what's happening at that stage," Kumble said. "We understand that Ricky is the key and it's important we get him early."

Harbhajan also has a strong record against Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, who have been dismissed seven times in eight Tests, but he had less impact in Melbourne, taking three wickets to Kumble's seven. The visiting spinners will have a huge say in whether Australia can equal the world record of 16 consecutive wins, which was set by Steve Waugh and ended by India in 2001.

"The only thing wrong with discussing it is that it takes the focus away from the game," Ponting, who has tried to avoid talk of the achievement, said. "When you're facing a ball, or starting to bowl, you need a nice clear mind. I don't mind a bit of talk about it, but if it gets too much, I would like to put it down."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo