Ponting refuses to rule out Tait
Ricky Ponting will keep India guessing about Australia's bowling attack until the last minute, refusing to say that Shaun Tait will be replaced by Brad Hogg in the fourth Test which starts on Thursday. He also said he had been thinking about how to face his nemesis Harbhajan Singh as he is expecting the spinner to be recalled.
"Historically, spin is the preferred option," Ponting said in Adelaide, "but when you have someone like Taity who is a wicket-taker in the wings, it gives you a lot of options. He has taken wickets for South Australia for a long time both early with the new ball and late in the game, when there has been variable bounce. His style is suited to these conditions.
"The wicket here is usually good for batting, and it looks headed that way. It's actually quite dry. You have to weigh up whether the spin option is the way to go or to use four fast bowlers to make use of the variable bounce. If we do play four quicks, we will have to mix and match, using part-timers earlier in the day so as to not get caught out like in the last game."
In the lead-up to the Melbourne Test, Ponting hinted strongly that Tait would be preferred as a pace option on the MCG surface, but Hogg got the nod. Tait himself does not believe he will be picked. Should Hogg play here, Ponting hopes he does not feel under too much pressure coming back in as Australia strive for a 3-1 series win. "He's done a good job for us, and I'm sure he will again."
As for India's line-up, he thinks that a batsman will give way so India can retain their three seamers as well as have two spinners in Harbhajan and Anil Kumble. It would weaken their batting but give them better balance, he thinks. On Harbhajan, who has got him out with his first ball five times, he said: "I've analysed a little bit, but I am not a huge analyst. I sat down and a think about how to play him. I have not had a chance to impose myself. Hopefully, I can get on top of him and stay on top throughout the game."
Ponting wasn't particularly nervous about this Test, where another loss would mean a drawn series. "We have nothing to lose, really. We are looking to improve on last week. We were disappointed with the way we played and India played well and we are hopeful of turning things around."
He echoed the messages of Michael Hussey and Phil Jaques earlier this week, who have said that Australia will come out aggressively as usual and that losing a Test was bound to happen at some stage. But he did agree that it would test everyone's mettle, the top-order in particular. "Individuals rebounding from personal failures is a test of their character, same can be said of a team. What is important is how you bounce back, how you back your skills and talents after a loss."
He said they would look to how they played in the first two games and that it wasn't attitude that failed them - he's happy with their aggression - more their skills. "I told the boys before the Perth Test that I didn't want our style and brand of cricket to change. If the skills are up to standard, the result will be different this time."
He pointed out too that one defeat does not signal a decline. "We had the same before the World Cup and ended up without losing a game there. We have just had 16 undefeated Tests, I don't think there is too much to worry just yet."
As for worrying about over-rates, he says they will be faster this time, following fines for everyone in Perth: "Lessons have been learnt."
And now he is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. "The rivalry is very strong, India are a great and enjoyable opponent. You always want to be pushed, and they have pushed us. Everything is lining up for this game to be a beauty."
Jenny Thompson is an assistant editor at Cricinfo