Ponting's form will be crucial

Given the background of these two prized fighters of international cricket, I would be surprised if the coming days remain low key. Australia usually don’t let go an inch without a scrap. They also don’t forget easily. They are unlikely to come to terms with India’s number one Test ranking or, for that matter, the painful defeat of 2008. I have a feeling they will be ready.

As ever, Australia will look to be better against spin. They will remember how Amit Mishra ran circles around them in Mohali two years ago. They are unlikely to buy the theory that Bhajji would be missing from the action. I too doubt if Bhajji won’t be there. The scrappy Sikh is usually ready for the Aussies on just one leg standing. Two other issues will be critical for the Aussies. They would love to win the toss and two, hope their skipper Ricky Ponting is in roaring form. Ponting’s form is critical to their plans as Australia get into a rebuilding mode.

The Australians have been vocal about the liberal use of the short ball. The suggestion emerging from their camp that even Virender Sehwag could be subjected to a serious search against the rising delivery is interesting. I doubt if this would have much currency for Sehwag, whose middle name is ‘unfazed’!!!

Life seems good for Mahendra Singh Dhoni after his marriage and the Champions League success. But the skipper must be acutely aware of his threadbare bowling options. Zaheer Khan returns and so does Sreesanth and hopefully, their spunk will add teeth to the Indian attack. I feel India will go with two spinners, and Bhajji and Mishra must be the chosen duo.

No such worries for the batting. The heavyweight seniors are still worth their weight in gold. Australia have a young and spirited attack but tackling the Indian batsmen would be a different challenge altogether. This line-up has the dash of Gambhir, Sehwag and Raina as well as the solidity of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. Not to forget Dhoni, of course.

It’s the start of the season and interest would centre around the Mohali pitch. Most agree it would get slower as the game progresses. It’s great that the season starts with the real stuff. It’s time to stand up and be counted by men of both sides.

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