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September 26, 2012
No Australian Twenty20 team has been as aggressive in word or deed as the one about to face India in a critical Super Eights match at the World T20. So there is understandable anticipation about the rejoining of an old battle with Harbhajan Singh, famously provocative in the past but so far this tournament doing more with the ball than with his choice of words.
Australia showed plenty of intent in the field in their opening match against Ireland, David Warner and Shane Watson particularly active in their efforts to rile the opposition. Watson later said this was part of how the team "gets up" for a serious contest. Any attempts at a similar approach against the West Indies were momentarily silenced by the blazing bats of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels before George Bailey's team notched a rain-assisted victory.
Harbhajan's recall was always likely to tempt another encounter with Australia, a team with which he has a history of confrontation and controversy, not least the 2008 Sydney Test match and its aftermath. While his striking display against England suggested a Harbhajan more focused on his bowling than anything else, the sight of the green and gold may stir that old familiar feeling.
Michael Hussey, a witness to much of the aforementioned history, said he expected Harbhajan to resume his famously provocative ways, and counselled his younger teammates to remain true to themselves in dealing with any verbal confrontations.
"I prefer to walk away and not worry about it," Hussey said. "If he [Harbhajan] wants to use his energy up sledging and carrying on, that's fine. Some other guys really thrive on it. Davey Warner, he likes a little bit of interaction out there and it gets him going.
"So I don't think there is a right way or wrong way to handle it but I think it's up to the individual to know he's going to try these tactics so you've got to be ready for it, and be sure it doesn't affect your concentration but handle it in your own way. I just think let him [Warner] go, let him play his way. That's what has given him success so far."
The match against India is the first of a testy trio that also features South Africa and Pakistan, leaving Hussey to reason that a first-up victory would ease a great deal of pressure from the team's shoulders.
"If we can win that first one in the Super Eights, it does give you that confidence and that little buffer that you know you just need one out of the last two to get through," Hussey said. "It's pretty much an early grand final really in the context of the tournament. But that relaxed attitude is important as well. We need to make sure we're not too tense.
"All the [batsmen] are playing well in the nets and they've got a lot of confidence, and that's a big part of Twenty20. You need to have no doubts in your mind or fears, you've got to trust yourself and let your instincts take over."
The coach Mickey Arthur treated Australia's player to two days off after their qualification for the next phase, though he then extracted a measure of recompense by pushing the players through a decidedly rigorous Tuesday training session.
"We have had a few relaxing days but I expect that's all about to end," Hussey said. "Training yesterday [Tuesday] was very long and pretty intense and a welcome back to reality really. The pressure and tension are only going to rise as we get closer to that India match because it's a huge game."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala