Aussies brace for India
Sehwag and Singh set to pose threat at home
THE return of two of India’s most explosive batsmen poses a threat to Australia’s efforts to build on impressive recent form when the two sides meet in the latest chapter of their escalating rivalry.
Riding on the one-day form that have helped them to win 11 of their past 12 one-day games, world champion Australia have arrived determined to avenge their loss at home in last year’s tri-series to Mahendra Dhoni’s India side.
With the seven-match limited-overs series beginning today in the western city of Vadodara, Australia captain Ricky Ponting is confident of reproducing the form that saw his team win six of seven matches against England this year and then defend its Champions Trophy title.
“We’ve been playing consistently good one-day cricket, I expect that to continue over the next couple of weeks in India,” Ponting said.
Ponting’s team, however, are missing some key players: vice-captain Michael Clarke (back), in-form batsman Callum Ferguson, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (finger) and seasoned pace bowler Nathan Bracken (knee).
Tim Paine, standing in for Haddin as wicketkeeper after Australia lost the Ashes Test series in England, has shown good form with the bat, while all-rounder Shane Watson’s successive centuries in the Champions Trophy provided a big boost.
India was knocked out of the preliminary round in the Champions Trophy, but Ponting felt Dhoni’s side would be a different proposition on its home turf.
“We all know how well the Indians play in their own conditions,” Ponting said.
India’s struggling batting order have been strengthened by the return of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh from injuries, even though pace ace Zaheer Khan is yet to regain match-fitness. Sehwag recovered from shoulder injury that sidelined the opener from the Twenty20 World Cup and Champions Trophy, while Yuvraj injured a finger during practice at the Champions Trophy.
“Confronting the Indian team in front of huge home crowds will be a big challenge,” said Australia coach Tim Nielsen, reminding his players not to “get too emotionally into it”.
Ponting said the intensity of the contests between these two teams – No 1 and 2 in ICC’s oneday rankings – had developed into a genuine rivalry.