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14 Jan 2008 06:53
Australia will hope to put the acrimony of recent days behind them as they chase a world record 17th straight Test win against India this week.
Batsman Michael Clarke said the home team were “keen as mustard” to get back on the field after the fall-out of the second Test in Sydney, which ended in claims of poor sportsmanship and racism.
“We are here preparing for what could be an unbelievable achievement—winning 17 Test matches in a row,” Clarke said.
“That is certainly our priority and that’s what I want to talk about. There has been a lot of talk about what happened over the last Test match, but that’s been said and done ...
I know the Australians are keen as mustard to get out here and win this 17th Test match in a row.”
The match, starting on Wednesday Perth’s Waca ground, will attract huge interest after the explosive events of Sydney, when India’s Harbhajan Singh was banned for an alleged racial slur as tempers boiled over.
Australia also came under fire from their own media and public for their conduct during the game and celebrations after narrowly clinching a 2-0 lead in the four-Test series.
India, angered at Harbhajan’s ban and some key decisions in the match, briefly interrupted their tour until umpire Steve Bucknor was axed by the International Cricket Council.
However Clarke was confident the Perth Test would be played in a better spirit, with captains Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble both calling for clear-the-air talks.
“I’m 100% positive that this Test match will be played in the right spirit,” Clarke said.
“There will certainly be fire in the guys’ bellies, as there has been every time we play India because we’re so competitive.
“Australia has been involved in Test cricket with India for 60 years now, cricket is the number sport in both countries, and that is why it is so competitive, because we both love the game and want to play good, hard, fair cricket.”
The controversy has overshadowed Australia’s achievement in matching their own 16-match Test winning streak going back to victory against South Africa at the MCG in December, 2005.
Australia also won 16 between October 1999 and December 2001, obliterating the 11-match run by Clive Lloyd’s West Indians in 1984.
Australia will delay a decision on veteran Matthew Hayden, who has played in all 16 wins but is struggling with a hamstring strain.
Australia are also considering playing four fast bowlers on the fast and bouncy WACA wicket, with South Australia’s Shaun Tait pressing for a recall after a fiery spell here in a Twenty20 match against New Zealand last month.
India’s Yuvraj Singh seems certain to lose his spot after just 17 runs at 4.25 in the first two Tests and opener Wasim Jaffer, with 22 at 5.50, is also under pressure.
Experienced opener Virender Sehwag is ready for a recall after a blistering century in a tour match on Saturday, while fellow batsman Dinesh Karthik also pressed for selection in that game.
Clarke also suggested India’s Harbhajan, who is eligible to play until the appeal against his three-Test ban is heard, may miss out with the wicket tempting India to play only one spinner.
“In these conditions I think they’ll play an extra fast bowler, but in saying that he’s had so much impact they might find it hard,” Clarke said.
“With Anil bowling really well I would imagine they’d take in a third fast bowler.”
Irfan Pathan would be the likely replacement. - AFP
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