Australia wary of India backlash

World champions Australia will not take victory for granted when they clash with India in a seven-match one-day series starting here on Sunday.

The series gives the home team an early chance to make amends after their first-round exit from the eight-nation Champions Trophy in South Africa earlier this month.

India have since been boosted by the return of hard-hitting batsmen Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, both of whom missed the action in South Africa owing to injuries.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting, riding high after leading his side to a second Champions Trophy win besides a 6-1 thumping of England in September, conceded he expected the Indians to fight back.

”We know that the Indian team will play well in their own conditions,” Ponting, 34, said ahead of the opening match at the Reliance stadium.

”But I am confident about our group of players. We played well in England and the Champions Trophy. Hopefully, we can build on that.

”The series gives us a fresh set of challenges and we will identify the little things that we need to do to win the series.”

The Australians won 4-2 the last time they played a one-day series in India in 2007 but three key players of that squad — Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist — are missing this time.

Injuries to first-choice wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, pacer Nathan Bracken and batsman Callum Ferguson have also muddled the line-up of the world’s number one team.

Ponting, however, made light of their absence.

”It doesn’t bother us,” he said. ”We have played some good one-day cricket recently. As far as experience is concerned, we have got players who have some 20-30 games under their belt.

”They are finding their feet in international cricket. In the last 12 one-day games, we have played some terrific cricket, both in the series against England and the Champions Trophy, and so we have the confidence going.

”Also, our overall record in the one-dayers in the subcontinent has been good.”

The series offers the young Australians in the squad exposure to Indian conditions ahead of the 2011 World Cup to be held in the sub-continent.

”This visit is important for us,” he said. ”We can learn a lot, particularly the younger guys playing for the first time in this part of the world. Everything we do now will almost be a trial run for 2011 World Cup.”

The Indians, ranked second behind Australia, will be banking on Sehwag and Yuvraj for big scores but their bowling has been weakened by the prolonged absence of injured pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.

The hosts included rookie seamer Sudeep Tyagi in the squad after impressive performances in domestic circuit but it remains to be seen if he is given a look-in early in the series.

The hosts go into the series without bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh, who were sacked after the Champions Trophy debacle.

The Indian board has yet to name their replacements, leaving head coach Gary Kirsten with additional responsibility. — AFP



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Abhaya Srivastava
Abhaya Srivastava is Agence France Presses South Asia special correspondent.

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