Australia in India 2008-09 September 20, 2008

Hayden ready for Harbhajan threat

Cricinfo staff

Matthew Hayden: "Harbhajan is very competitive, especially in his own environment. He's a big threat to our side, no doubt about that" © Getty Images

Matthew Hayden expects to be the key target for India's bowlers as he returns to Test cricket following a long injury lay-off. Australia depart for India on Sunday and Hayden said he was geared up for the challenge of tackling the hosts, and especially the threat posed by Harbhajan Singh.

Hayden did not play in the West Indies Tests this year as he battled an ongoing achilles tendon injury but he is keen to take on India, who have been one of his more favoured opponents. He leads the run-charts against them among the current touring party and has an equally impressive record in India, so he expects bowlers to vie for his wicket.

"Having played over there, and played well over there, I think I'm going to be the obvious target," Hayden told the Courier-Mail. During the 2001 visit, Hayden scored 549 in three Tests, and has since been a regular member of Australia's Test team.

In the same series, Harbhajan took 32 wickets in a gripping contest that India won 2-1. Hayden, one of four members in the squad with Test experience in India, said he would need to step up to the threat.

"Harbhajan is very competitive, especially in his own environment," he said. "He's a big threat to our side, no doubt about that. He's skilful and has got some weapons in conditions that will really favour him. My job will be to combat that so, for me, it's a battle I'm really looking forward to."

Relations between the two players were strained during India's recent tour of Australia. Hayden called Harbhajan "an obnoxious little weed" on a radio show in the aftermath of Andrew Symonds alleging the offspinner had racially abused him - charges that were not proved.

Hayden said the "whole dynamic" of the Australia Test side had changed in recent years, with Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist retiring. "To be part of the No.1 cricket side in the world is always a big challenge because we are the benchmark," he said. "I expect no mercy from the Indians but that's why I'll enjoy this series. I'll be right in the thick of it. I think this series is tailor-made for guys like me."