It doesn't get bigger than this

Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
Share this on your social network:
   Facebook Twitter Google+    Comments Mail

More images
Amstelveen:Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and his Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting have both said they cannot wait for the resumption of the cricket giants' Test match rivalry in October.

"It's going to probably be the biggest series of the year," said Ganguly. "We all know that. They will be definitely looking forward to coming to India and we will be looking forward to that series."

And Ponting, anticipating the four-match contest in India, said it would be a "huge" series.

The duo were speaking after rain forced Monday's triangular series match at the VRA Ground in Amstelveen to be abandoned as a no-result, an outcome that left India relying on a huge win by Pakistan against the One-day world champions on Wednesday to qualify for Saturday's final.

But although Australia beat India by the crushing margin of 125 runs to win last year's World Cup final in Johannesburg, it is their recent five-day encounters that have really gripped cricket fans.

In January this year India held Ponting's team, also regarded as the world's best current Test side, to a 1-1 draw in a four-match Test series in Australia.

But it is winning a Test series on Indian soil that has become the last great challenge for an Australian team that has won all over the world, as this is something they have not achieved since 1969-70 when a team led by Bill Lawry claimed a five-match encounter 3-1.

The last time the teams met in India, in 2000-01, India won a three-match series 2-1, a contest widely acknowledged as one of the most outstanding in cricket history.

"We did well when we went to Australia, we won in 2001 and if we can do it again it will be very good for our team," Ganguly added.

But the Australian team that arrives in India in a couple of months will show at least two major changes from the one that the Asian giants faced earlier this year.

Former captain Steve Waugh, for so long the rock of Australia's batting, has retired but on the other hand leg-spinner Shane Warne has completed the year-long drugs ban that saw him miss the series and, barring injury, will be in India.

Ganguly said of the absence of Waugh: "It will be different. Steve's a legend and people in India respect him. Obviously, it's going to be a new side with some young boys.

"They did well in Sri Lanka (Australia won the Test series 3-0) so we'll have to be up for it."

But he had no doubts about Warne's return. "He's their key bowler. He will make a difference to any side. We've played him well over the years but obviously he's the type of bowler who can win matches any day."

And Ponting backed Warne, second only to Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan as the leading Test wicket-taker of all time, to come good against India.

"Shane can make a huge difference for us over there. The Indians have played him well on the last couple of tours to India.

"But I know for a fact that Shane hasn't been that fit on the last couple of tours there, he's been carrying niggling injuries.

"He's obviously fitter now than he's ever been and talking to Michael Clarke, who's been playing with him at (English County) Hampshire, he's bowling very, very well. If he can take some of that form into the Indian series I am sure he'll play a big part for us."

But for some English cricket fans the series that still matters more than all the others is the Ashes.

England have lost their last eight series against Australia in what is cricket's oldest Test match contest (it dates back to 1877).

However there is renewed hope that England, who on Saturday completed their seventh successive Test victory when they beat the West Indies inside three days at The Oval - their best run in 75 years - can at least give Australia a contest when Ponting's team tour there next year.

Ponting, who has been playing County cricket for Somerset, admitted he had become used to talking about England's Ashes chances.

"I've been in England for the last four or five weeks and I think I've been asked this question about a thousand times.

"England are obviously playing very good cricket at the moment. Some of the individuals have really put their hands up and have grown in stature over the last 12-18 months.

"A lot can happen in the next 12 months. It's a long way away. We've got a huge series in India coming up and our main focus will be on that series.

"But if we can arrive (in England) injury free, we'll be taking a very strong squad there. It should be a very good series and one all the players will be looking forward to."

Write Comments