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Aussies prepared to play in India: Gilchrist

Published: Saturday, September 25, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Mumbai:Stand-in Australian captain Adam Gilchrist on Saturday said his team was better prepared to meet the stiff challenge posed by India in their own backyard this time than three years ago and promised a lot of excitement in the four-Test series commencing at Bangalore on October six.

"A lot of water has flown under the bridge since that series in 2001 (which Australia lost 1-2). We have played a lot of cricket all over the world. The visit to Sri Lanka (last year) is significant. We played the spinners very well there. We are much better prepared mentally and cricket-wise," Gilchrist said in Mumbai.

The majority of the Australian team members, including Gilchrist and coach John Buchanan, arrived early this morning from England.

The flashy wicketkeeper-batsman said both teams would be hit hard in the likely absence through injuries of Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar for at least part of the rubber.

"I don't know the status about Sachin's injury, but India would certainly miss him. We too would miss Ponting, but we are used to missing players due to injuries," Gilchrist said.

"But the series would not diminish one bit in the likely absence of any player. This rivalry between India and Australia has developed into an iconic one. The series would be exciting for the fans," he said.

Ponting had to return to Australia for treating his fractured left thumb after sustaining the injury in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final loss to England. Tendulkar has been out of cricket since before the Holland tri-series in August due to tennis elbow.

Highlighting the intense rivalry between India and Australia, who would be fighting it out for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Gilchrist said that both teams had played competitive cricket in each other's soil over the last two series.

"India and Australia have played a lot against each other recently. We were competitive in 2001, but did not get the desired result. India were competitive last year in Australia. But this cannot be compared to the Ashes series (Australia Vs England). Each series has its own identity," he pointed out.

The 34-year-old swashbuckling batsman said he and some other players were distracted due to commercial and other commitments on the last visit and have decided to temper these down on the current tour.

"There are huge opportunities in India off the field, not only for commercial purposes. There's a lot to see in India. I personally had too much on my plate in 2001," he said.

Having taken over the reins of captaincy unexpectedly from Ponting, Gilchrist said he aims to be in constant touch with the Tasmanian and carry out the plans, as Ponting had desired before he had to return home.

"I am not going to change anything, not try anything different from what Ricky had planned. I will be calling him and taking his inputs. Things will go as he had planned," he said.

Gilchrist also said Shane Warne, who has not tasted much success against India, would be a major factor. "Warne is a major part of our strike force," he remarked about the ace leg-spin bowler.

Warne has always played a huge part in our plans. He has been playing for Hampshire and should be in good cricket touch," Gilchrist said.

Asked whether he would miss playing at the Eden Gardens, venue of the fantastic Test match that turned the series on its head in 2001, Gilchrist said yes and no.

"Personally I may not miss it (as Australia lost). But, yes. That's a great venue and we would have liked to play there. However, the other venues for the series are also very good ones," Gilchrist said.

Coach Buchanan said the team's bowling composition, in particular its spin options, would depend on the wickets the visitors encountered during the series.

"We have been given an all round team by the selectors. It may be a question of going in with four pacers or three spinners. It all depends on the conditions," he said.

For the tour opener against Mumbai, commencing at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on September 30, the Australians are keen to field youngster Michael Clarke and the not-so-young Brad Hodge, who has replaced the injured Ponting.

"We would be trying to give a bat to guys like Hodge and Clarke," he said. Both the Australian captain and coach were of the opinion that Clarke had a bright chance to make his Test debut in India.

Buchanan said that it was indeed a bit unusual in not playing One-day Internationals too on the tour. "But we had played the tri-series last year here," he added.

The four Test matches are scheduled to be played at Bangalore (Oct 6-10), Chennai (Oct 14-18), Nagpur (Oct 26-30) and Mumbai (Nov 3-7).

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