Centurion (South Africa): Australian skipper Ricky Ponting on Friday acknowledged India's strength but was sure his team would not suffer from any "negative thoughts" for what happened on its 2001 tour of India when it takes the field in Saturday's high-profile World Cup encounter.
"I don't think anyone would be going on Saturday with any negative thoughts," Ponting said referring to the historic Test series in which India turned the tables on them for a 2-1 victory after losing the opening Test. "It's a hurdle we didn't cross as a Test team but it is One-day cricket and a different affair." Ponting neatly side-stepped the issue of having to prove himself against off spinner Harbhajan Singh who had dismissed him in all the five innings on that tour.
"Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble are good bowlers and we have to work out ways to combat them," he said about India's twin spin attack. Wary of the might of the Indian batting, Ponting said it was absolutely crucial for his bowlers to take early wickets in Saturday's match. "New ball is going to be vital in this World Cup. We know we need to take early wickets on Saturday to put India under pressure.
They have some very good batsmen right down the order," he said. "When we bat on Saturday, it is important we go through the initial overs against Indian pace bowlers and set up the game from there," he said. Australia had lost early wickets in its opening game against Pakistan before Ponting and Andrew Symonds steadied the innings with fine knocks. Ponting said his team would have to adopt a different strategy against India as compared to Pakistan because the two sub-continental teams were not alike.
"They are a bit different in their make-up. While Pakistan relies more on their bowlers, Indians are more of a strong batting side. They are contrasting in their make-up." But having inflicted a crushing defeat on Pakistan, Ponting had not doubts as to which team was favourite in Saturday's game. "We start favourites in any game we play these days and we are well-prepared. But the Indians are a very, very good One- day side," he said. Ponting said his team had no time to worry about the opposition as it was busy sorting out its own problems. The return of Michael Bevan and Darren Lehmann would boost the side but the absence of Shane Warne, sent home after testing positive for a banned substance, would obviously be felt.
"I am not worried about them and pretty concerned about how we are going to approach this game," he said while confirming that spinner Brad Hogg would continue to play in place of Warne. "They are very good players of spin but Brad has done a good job for Australia. The Indians probably haven't seen too many left-arm leg spinners.
It's a good challenge for him to bowl against them and it would be one for them as well if he hits form," Ponting said. The Aussie captain admitted Symonds' success in the previous match had created a selection dilemma for the team. "His form has made selection hard work. We are still not decided if we would go with the fifth specialist bowler or if the load would be shared between Darren Lehmann, Andrew Symonds and Michael Bevan."
Ponting also expressed the hope that Warne's 'B' sample would return a negative result, making the bowler eligible to participate in the rest of the competition. "We got pretty well in the first game (without him) bet obviously we would like Shane in the side. He is a world class bowler and was probably the difference on how far we progressed in the 1999 World Cup. "We are obviously waiting for the outcome of the hearing over the next couple of days And we would like him back in cricket as early as we can."