It's going to be an entertaining and tough series: Ponting

It's going to be an entertaining and tough series: Ponting

"India is a very good and strong one-day team and were not underestimating them. We are the number one and two teams in the world and all points to an entertaining and good contest over the next few weeks," Ponting said at his first media conference after arriving on Tuesday.

"We have always enjoyed playing in India and against India. Our rivalry over the last few years has been growing and its good for the world game," he said. Pointing out Australia's splendid run in the 50-over game over the last few months, that included a 6-1 thrashing of hosts England and a successful defence of their ICC Champions Trophy crown, Ponting was optimistic of carrying forward good form in India as well.

"We have played some excellent one-day cricket over the last few months beginning from the England tour and in the Champions Trophy. We need to keep improving and need to be at our best right through the series," he said.

The 34-year-old Australian captain, who has quit T20 internationals, felt that a lot of responsibility lies on his shoulders as the team's most experienced batsman. "I have a good record in one-day cricket in India as compared to Tests. I have played some of my best one-day cricket over the last few months. A lot of responsibility is on my shoulders as the number three batsman in the team. It's really a big challenge to play against India," he said.

Ponting, who has scored over 12,000 runs in ODIs with 28 centuries to boot, said that the retirement of stalwarts like Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, who were part of the squad that thrashed India 4-2 in the last series in this country, has given a good chance for some new players to step up the ladder.

"We have got a lot of young players, young as far as experience goes, who are finding their feet in international cricket. We have played some good one-day cricket over the last few months and they have grown in confidence from that. This series offers them different set of challenges," he said.

Ponting did not read too much into the fact that the Indian team would be without a specialised bowling and fielding coach following the unceremonious sacking of Ventatesh Prasad and Robin Singh by the Cricket Board just before the series. "A lot of coaching can be done among the players themselves. The younger players can learn a lot from the experienced guys," he retorted.

Ponting felt that a few members of the team, including pace spearhead Brett Lee, would have gained by getting used to Indian conditions by playing in the Champions T20 League in which two Australian domestic teams New South Wales Blues and Victoria Bushrangers have advanced to the last four.

"It's good they have got used to the conditions but on the other hand it would have been nice to have them in the group a little bit sooner," he said. Apart from Lee five other players of the touring party Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Jon Holland and Cameron White are already in the country playing in the CLT20 championship that concludes on October 23. Ponting was optimistic that his top batsmen would cope well while playing against the spinning ball.

"The challenge will be how our middle order batsmen cope up with playing spin bowling over the next few weeks. Michael Hussey has played a lot of cricket here. Shane Watson and Tim Paine play spin well. Our record in one day cricket in the sub continent is good. I'm confident the team would do a very good job," he said.

"We have played very good one-day cricket. We could not have done better than what we did in the last few one-day games. We have a fresh set of challenges here. We know that. Over the next couple of days we need to do some little things to play well," he said.
"What we aim to achieve as a one-day outfit is to be consistent," he added, a fact borne by their record of 10 victories in their last twelve one-day games, the lone defeat occurring against England.

But the Aussie skipper also admitted to a slight fall in consistency over the last couple of years. "If you look at the Australian teams of the past we have remained consistent whether its Test or one-day cricket. There have been some ups and downs in our over the last two years in Test and one-day cricket. At the moment we have been playing some consistently good one-day cricket and I expect it to continue in India," Ponting elaborated.

Ponting was not convinced that the Indian bowling attack is a little thin in the absence of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan who has started playing domestic cricket yesterday after undergoing shoulder surgery in July.

"We know that the Indian team will play well in their conditions. In fast bowling they may not have the class of Zaheer. But they know to do the job well. That's what it is about at the international level. It's for us to get on top of the Indian bowling and not give them enough opportunities in the series," he said.

Ponting said that with the return of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, who missed the Champions Trophy due to injuries, the Indian batting remained very strong.

Five matches ideal: Oz skipper

Ponting felt seven one-dayers was a case of one too many, reports PTI from Mumbai.

“Five is enough head-to-head in any one series. We all know the reasons we are playing these seven-game series,” the Australian captain said, hinting at financial motives being the sole criterion for such long series.

Ponting said long drawn-out contests resulted in inconsequential matches.

“When we play a seven-match series against one side in a matter of a couple of weeks, it’s really hard to focus, especially if the series is over, to maintain focus throughout, patricularly if there’s another big series coming up,” he explained.