Australia in India 2008-09 October 5, 2008

Plenty for Ponting to ponder


"I am not looking at the Hyderabad game too closely because I know it will be a different Australian team that will walk in and play Test cricket," India's coach Gary Kirsten said. No one will make the mistake of underestimating the world champions based on a tour game but there are a few issues facing Australia ahead of the first Test, reports Sriram Veera from Hyderabad

Ricky Ponting didn't pick Piyush Chawla's variations quickly enough in the first innings and lost his middle stump to a googly © AFP

Weak spin attack
An already thin spin attack got even weaker when the first choice, Bryce McGain, was ruled out of the tour with a shoulder injury. That leaves Jason Krejza, who leaked nearly 200 runs without taking a wicket, and Cameron White, generally considered an ODI specialist. The lack of quality has affected the team composition but Ponting has indicated that the pitches in India are likely to force him to play a spinner in the first Test.

If Australia decide against playing a spinner, they have the option of picking either an extra batsman or a quick bowler. Considering that Shane Watson - who is likely to take Andrew Symonds' place at No. 6 - will provide the fourth pace option, will Ponting enlist Phil Jaques as a cushion against a collapse?

Ponting's record against spin in India
By his own admission, Ponting's record in Indian conditions is not up to scratch. Coming back from an injury he did play the left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha very well but he had problems against legspinner Piyush Chawla. He didn't pick his variations quickly enough in the first innings and lost his middle stump to a googly. The fatal hesitant lunge forward first glimpsed in 1998 was on view again. In the second innings Ponting hit a couple of boundaries and was beaten a few times but didn't embarrass himself. He hit an unbeaten 58 but was perhaps helped by the fact that he didn't face much of Chawla.

Ponting has been working overtime on this tour. He was at the nets nearly every morning of the tour game, working either alone or with Matthew Hayden. There were some clues to his possible plans in the Tests. Against the offspinners, he was taking an off-stump guard with his back leg placed on the middle-stump line. Ponting achieved success against Muttiah Muralitharan in 2004 by getting outside the line and playing with the turn. His battle with Harbhajan Singh will be prime-time action during the next month.

Fast bowling
Fast bowling and patience are two factors the Australians have identified as critical to succeed in India. Brett Lee, a "touch underdone" according to Ponting, and Stuart Clark are reliable commodities and can be expected to deliver. Mitchell Johnson is the man under pressure. Australia hustle the opposition in the field but they need Johnson to fire to be able to apply that sort of pressure in this series, much like Michael Kasprowicz did for Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath in 2004-05. Johnson has 34 wickets from nine Tests - he took ten wickets in three Tests in the West Indies - and has been struggling to swing the ball back into the right-handers. It's a far cry from the image of the man who harassed the Indians in the DLF Cup in Malaysia two years ago.

On the positive side, though, he seems now to have learnt his limitations. "I am just trying to get the ball through at pace to the 'keeper," he said on arriving here, and that's precisely what he did in the tour game. Ponting gave him lengthy spells and he improved as the game went on. Johnson was pretty economical in the second innings and Ponting would hope that even if he doesn't get a clutch of wickets, he could put pressure on the batsmen by being frugal.

Hayden has a great record in India and only a fool will bet against him. But he's coming back from an injury layoff and played two scratchy innings in the tour game. Hayden isn't someone you would term as being vulnerable, and he can be trusted to up his ante once the real action starts. What about Simon Katich, his likely opening partner? Like Hayden, he too flopped in the tour game, with scores of 15 and 5. But Katich averaged 63.80 in the West Indies, including two centuries, as replacement for an injured Hayden, and his experience of playing in India should work in his favour. His left-arm wrist-spin could be particularly useful as Australia field an attack lacking spin experience.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sidharth on October 7, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    I think the Aussies are not good enough to beat India this series.Hayden is just back from injury,Ponting has a terrible record against India,No good spinner in the squad and a full strength Indian side just add to their woes.I think sachin would be the man to watch out because of his amazing record against Aussies.In Srilanka,Dravid and Ganguly did not play well.Sachin was injured most of the time.Dhoni was absent as well.Dravid has improved and Kumble is always dangerous.Ishant Sharma&Zaheer are bowling well.So I think India can clinch this series atleast 3-1.

  • Glenn on October 6, 2008, 23:56 GMT

    You can't go to India and win without a good spinner. The definition of good is arguable, but Oz look too weak in this department to be a constant threat and apply pressure to a formidable batting line up. India win, no doubts.

  • Jagtej on October 6, 2008, 20:27 GMT

    For all the bravado, an India win will require significnat planetary alignment. I'm not too sure the Indian attack can bowl out Messrs Katich,Hayden, Ponting, Clark, Hussey, Watson, Haddin, White, Lee, Johnson and Clark twice. Top that with recent performances in Sri Lanka, talk of retirement and quirky pitches and we are in for a facinating series.

  • Vishu on October 6, 2008, 17:59 GMT

    Well this is the first time I'm seeing negative air from Australians and that too for Australia: Undoubtedly the best cricketing team at the moment. India have earlier proved that Australians are vulnerable even in their own lands. Now it's only matter of days to see if they are able enough to defend in their own land. The result of this series will definitely decide the future of few of the cricketers on both the sides. Also this series is very crucial in determining cricket's future dominance; With India winning the Twenty20 world cup and one day series in Australia, it'll will be fun to watch how Ponting reacts to this pressure. And, if he fails it'll mark the end of Australia's and more importantly Ponting's dominance. Moreover it'll be great to see how Kumble takes his vengeance. My money is on Kumble's men, Lets see who triumphs (May the best team win) ..

  • H on October 6, 2008, 16:24 GMT

    In the past I've heard a lot of people asking what will happen after the great Australian players (Mcgrath,warne,gilly,langer etc) retire. Well, the time has come and we will see how things turn out for the Aussies. Its going to be a contest - the Aussies will try to enforce their supremacy they have been holding for so long and on the other hand the fab 4 senior Indian players will try to make a mark in what possibly could be their last Australian series. They have a very good chance of playing for a few more years but this series will give them a reality check, will show them where they stand. If they fail they have to make way for younger players - its high time. I hope the fab 4 make the most of it because its very seldom you will get a Aus side like this and we would love to watch them play for long. All the best for both the fantastic teams and hope we wil lhave a good aggressive contest. Hari-USA

  • Geoffrey on October 6, 2008, 16:24 GMT

    Aussie in US I am thinking that India are probably better off taking a good look that the Aussie side and then not OVERestimating them either. I mean look there is an ageing opener with a bad hamstring, a poor captain with a terrible record with the bat in India, and only a couple of players with any experience on Indian pitches.

    Australia can't beat India with one or two pacebowlers and a couple of middle order batsman. I am thinking India will be thinking that they are better forgetting that the man is wearing a baggy green and remembering that it is more likely to be an inexperienced player untested in Indian conditions that he is facing and not a Glenn McGrath.

    But I understand the habit every Australian has gotten into along the lines of "well we are Australia, we have to win." We might have to get used to the idea that other teams have caught up. In the end in this series experience will count and it's experience we haven't got, either with pace or with spin.

  • Peter on October 6, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    India will be very much mistaken if they under estimate the Aussies. So much is being said about the lack of a spinner (and there is no doubt that is an issue), but Warne was never very successful in India, and Brett Lee, while having never played in India, will be a huge factor. India have run hot and cold of late, and while I think this will be a very close series, I think the Aussies would be quietly pleased to be considered the under dogs.

  • Jagadish on October 6, 2008, 13:23 GMT

    Hayden has a great record in India - overall. The overall record masks the pathetic show last time around, where he averaged 30 with just 1 half century from 8 innings.

  • Geoffrey on October 6, 2008, 11:58 GMT

    This looks like a pretty simple equation. Unless Stuart Clark bowls his heart out and takes a bucketload of wickets then Australia will fall. If even one Indian batsman (ie Laxman) gets away even a little then Ponting will press the panic button and it will be all men on the boundary. There isn't a spin bowler in the side decent enough to dry up runs and Lee & Johnson are very expensive wicket taking bowlers. It's all up to Stuart Clark.

    Frankly can't see Australia winning the series unless we can unearth another once in a generation spinner. There isn't any middle order player of the ilk of a Mark Waugh with soft hands that can play spin calmly and confidently. So if we can't spin them out, then they will almost certainly spin us out. And you can expect ALL the pitches to be dustbowls given our bowling weakness.

    I'd say at this stage India to win 2-0. Maybe even 3-0 unless we bat like current world champions not ones sliding into mediocrity.

  • sridhar on October 6, 2008, 8:55 GMT

    Ramanujam Sridhar I think Australia will open with Kattich .They will play both Watson and White, so that their batting is strong given the rustiness of some of the people like Hayden .Murali in recent times has had limited success against Australia and something tells me that Ponting is better prepared than he has ever been. Chawla can be quite a handful but Kumble is no stranger to the Australians.Australia will probably play very much like the South Africans did here, not too long ago and look to pace and medium pace to see them through.Who knows how nimble Sachin and Ganguly will be after lay offs? Dravid too plodded his way through the Rest of India game .But one must give credit to him for hanging in there.The quality of pitches too seem uncertain and maybe they will not be the dustbowls of the past.All said and done it could be a war of attrition and the team with greater resilience and patience might well win.

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