India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 5th day October 6, 2010

Bollinger's absence hurt us - Ponting

October 24, 2009. Brett Lee joins the Australian team barely 12 hours before the toss for the first ODI of the gruelling seven-match series. Till then, Lee has been occupied in winning New South Wales the Champions League Twenty20. On the day of the match, with Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar threatening a heist with the bat, Lee pulls up sore. End of series.

It's déjà vu in October 2010 in certain ways. Doug Bollinger, after a successful Champions League, arrives here two days before what turns out to be an all-time great Test, bowls impressively in the defence of a modest total, and when he is on absolute fire, running through the Indian batting with his aggression and hostility, he has to pull out because of abdominal pain. After an over in which he bounces Harbhajan Singh out, Bollinger is not available through the rest of the innings.

"I actually had him ready to bowl the next over," Ricky Ponting said later. "I went to grab his hat off him for the start of his next over and he said he'd felt some pain in one of his abdominals, and being a fast bowler and having that sort of injury I just sent him off the ground straight away." Ponting, captaining an Australian side not dominant any more and hence in need of every resource it can get hold of, didn't hide his disappointment last year. He is not hiding it this year.

"It would have been nice to have another fast bowler to rotate through when we needed that breakthrough," Ponting said. "At that stage, Doug had bowled just the one spell as well, so he would have been nice and fresh. When you are bowling at the tail, you need those strike options. That said, we used five other bowling options, but none of them could give us that result."

Ponting - not obligated, unlike many other international players, to always sing praises for the leagues - and the Australian team management haven't been a fan of the clashes the various leagues create with national duty, the preparation part more than the actual playing part. They have all been concerned about the late arrivals of Bollinger and Michael Hussey.

There is nothing to ensure that Bollinger wouldn't have been injured had he trained with the Australian team for the last 10 days, but it helps a captain to know that his strike bowler has not been away playing in a private league until two days before a Test.

"It probably doesn't help," said Ponting of Bollinger's Champions League commitments. "But he'd been bowling, and that's one positive for Doug that he'd been playing competitive cricket. "He probably hasn't been bowling the amount of overs in the Champions League that some of the others have had coming over here, but the facts are that he's been playing, he arrived a couple of days before the game.

"I thought his work before that was very good, I thought his spell today was probably the best he's bowled during the game, so [it was] disappointing for him to go down at the end there, it hurt us a lot."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo