Mumbai braces for Aussies tie

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Ranji Trophy champions for the last two years in succession, Mumbai, were today gearing up for an intense struggle for supremacy against the strong Australian cricket team in the three-day tour game commencing at the Brabourne Stadium here today.

Mind games were already put in place with Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit hinting yesterday that he had a few surprises up his sleeves for the visitors and the Australiancoach John Buchanan hinting today at leaving out his trump card, leg spin ace Shane Warne, from the opening tour match.

"We want to give everyone a chance to get into the groove as this is the only match on the tour before the four-Test series," Buchanan told reporters after the net session.

Asked whether Warne, who was mauled by the Mumbai batsman on the 1997-98 tour opener with Sachin Tendulkar and others carting him to all parts of the Brabourne Stadium, would play, Buchanan was non-committal.

"We want to make sure that the players who would be out of the Test side (at Bangalore) are ready to play Test matches (later on if required)," the bespectacled coach added.

Buchanan was very happy with the work-out his team had over the last three days here, despite the threat of rain hovering and hampering their preparations for the October 6first Test.

"We had three days of good work-out. Now we have the three-day match to prepare ourselves further," he said. One of the key points the visitors would like to settleabout their Test team was the player to occupy the number three slot in the absence of injured regular captain Ricky Ponting.

The absence of regular number three Ponting because of a thumb fracture has left them to sort out this important batting place ahead of the first Test.

"We have a few options - Simon Katich, (stand-in captain) Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke - to try out," Buchanan said. On whether it was a disadvantage of not having DarrenLehmann, a key player in the sub-continent with his ability to play spin well, available to play in the match because of a delayed flight out of Australia, Buchanan said, "it was".

"It would have been preferable for Darren to have played this match. But it was not to be," he said, adding the left-handed batsman would have to make to with whatever practice he can get in the nets to get into the groove for the Test battles ahead.

Mumbai, meanwhile, are very confident of repeating what they had inflicted on the Aussies on the last two occasions in tour matches.

"We have done well against them in the past two matches. We are the Ranji Trophy champions over the last two years and don't have to be overawed by the occasion. It's a great challenge and a big game for all of us," team member Ajit Agarkar said before the tie.

Agarkar, too, has a big stake in the match with the Indian pace attack wearing such an unsettled look because of injury woes, the latest being the ankle injury reportedlysustained by Ashish Nehra at Bangalore yesterday.

The wiry Mumbai right-arm pacer played a major role with a six-wicket haul in the first innings of the Adelaide Test won by India on the tour to Australia last year, but sincethen Agarkar has struggled to be consistent.

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