Ricky Ponting believes Australia's strong ODI record in India will help them during their seven-match series
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Ricky Ponting didn't wait for the umpires to call play to go on the offensive; his first press conference of the tour was all about pressure - pressure on India given their recent successes, the pressure of accommodating senior players into a settled side, the pressure of the one-day format, the on-field pressure typically exerted by the Australian style of cricket.
"They [India] definitely deserved it, look at the last three teams they beat. They thoroughly deserve to come back as champions but that's finished now," he told the press at a Bangalore hotel on Thursday. "We've got to look at the seven games we have here in India and we know what we have to do to win on the subcontinent. If anything now, a bit of the pressure will come back on the Indians."
What impact would the return of India's three senior batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly - have on the team and the series? "Three very good and experienced players coming back will obviously add a bit to the Indian team. But the one thing that stood out for all of us, looking at the Indian team throughout the Twenty20, was the amount of youthfulness they had in the team. It's been well-documented that they fielded well all tournament and I think it's a fresh outlook on the game. The thing for us is that we've played against those guys a lot [Dravid, Ganguly, Tendulkar] and we should know their strengths and weaknesses very well. If anything, it'll probably make it a lot easier for us to play India with those guys in the team."
Ponting didn't see this series as any different from those in the past, despite Australia's failure to make the finals of the World Twenty20. "The same as any other series we go into - we want to win every game of cricket that we play. This series is absolutely no different from the last one. We wanted to win every game we could through the Twenty20, but unfortunately we fell short there. Coming here to India, it's a place where we have a very good record, particularly in the limited-overs game."
Ponting will miss the first few games of the series and two others - Michael Hussey and Shane Watson - have been ruled out altogether. However, Ponting said he did not doubt for a second that Australia could run India hard as the confidence in his team was unmistakable. "We've got a very talented and skilled group. Sure, we've got a couple of injuries at the moment but hopefully by the first or second game they'll be all cleared up and we can go into this series in a very positive frame of mind, looking to play the best cricket we can," he said. "We hope to win the series, and if that means winning every game well then great. Hopefully we'll start with a win on Saturday and take it from there.
"You look at Watson and Hussey and you won't find fitter guys. We had no excuses going into the Twenty20; we had four months to get fit and once Saturday comes around I guarantee you that you'll see a very confident and skilled Australian team take the field."
We spoke about it back in Australia a couple of years ago; that if we can score 200 in a Twenty20 game why can't we score 400 in a 50-over game? It's really just a mental adjustment more than anything
Confident, skilled and rested. Ponting pointed out India's hectic schedule since the World Cup, with less than four days between leaving South Africa and the first game of the series, while Australia was here to play just another series of competitive cricket.
That brought him back to his theme: cricket is about one thing - pressure, no matter what format of the game. "Cricket in general is about how much pressure you can apply on the opposition; that's what we try and do all the time, whether batting or bowling," he said. "That won't change in this tournament and it won't change because we've played a couple of Twenty20 games. We'll have lots of individual plans for their players and it's about us being able to execute those over 100 overs. That means they are under pressure and we're in control. That's what any type of cricket is about for the Australian team."
The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 was a huge success and Ponting admitted that its influence could extend to the 50-over game. "As far as teams playing one-dayers go, yes maybe we will see it. We've probably seen a little bit of it in Test cricket as far as teams are playing, with the amount of one-day cricket that's being played, the intensity, I think that's spilled into the Test arena," he said. "Teams are scoring a lot quicker now than they did 10-12 years ago. And I think that's got a lot to do with the amount of one-day cricket being played these days. Now that there's another form of cricket - the Twenty20 form - I think that will definitely spill over into the 50-over game.
"We spoke about it back in Australia a couple of years ago; that if we can score 200 in a Twenty20 game why can't we score 400 in a 50-over game? It's really just a mental adjustment more than anything. Certainly, batsmen's skills over the last six or seven years in the one-day game have improved dramatically and I think the more Twenty20 cricket is played, the bowlers will start adjusting really well. We saw that at different times during the last event [the inaugural ICC World Twenty20]. But I think if we get some really good conditions here we'll see some good scores."
Australia may have some injury concerns, but confidence is one thing they're not short on.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo