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India the biggest threat to Australia: Hussey

Published: Monday, January 21, 2008, 14:51 [IST]
 
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Adelaide: Star batsman Mike Hussey said on Monday that India have earned the right to be considered Australia's biggest threat in Test cricket.

The Aussies have for several years been considered almost untouchable, their 2005 Ashes loss to England a rare hiccup that was followed by a record-equalling 16-match winning streak.

England and South Africa have at different times threatened to challenge Australia's dominance, but neither have been able to maintain their form.

However, India staked their claim with a remarkable 72-run win in the third Test at Perth's WACA Ground, ending the hosts' winning run and handing them their first defeat since the 2005 Ashes. It was also Australia's first defeat at home since 2003.

India's win followed an unlucky loss in the controversial second Test in Sydney and was based on the effort of a young and largely unheralded seam attack.

Speaking in Adelaide as both teams arrived to prepare for the fourth and final Test -- with India out to repeat their 2003 effort and square the series -- Hussey said the tourists deserved to be recognised as one of the best sides in the world.

The days of them being considered easy pickings away from home were long gone, he said, adding: "India have to be right up there because they're playing so well away from home.

"You know they're always going to be hard to beat in India, but they've had a good result in England during the winter and now they're playing good cricket here in Australia and they did four years ago as well.

"I would hold them in high regard and with more respect because they have that ability and the team to play in all conditions."

Hussey particularly praised young fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who put aside his own disappointments in the second Test to claim three crucial wickets in Perth, including the prized second innings scalp of captain Ricky Ponting.

"He's a very good bowler. He's young, he's aggressive, he's got good pace and hits the bat hard," he said. "But he's got to do that on all surfaces and I know the guys are going to be very determined to keep him out in this Test match."

The swing bowling of Sharma, Irfan Pathan and RP Singh did most of the damage in Perth, but Hussey doubted that would be the case in Adelaide.

However, he conceded the probable return of Harbhajan Singh to form a twin spin partnership with captain Anil Kumble offered another challenge.

"They used the conditions very well in Perth, but I don't think it's going to swing as much in Adelaide," Hussey said.

"Having said that, they are obviously a very fine bowling unit, very balanced, be it a matter of swing, seam or spin."

Meanwhile, South Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait has conceded that he is almost certain to be dropped for his home Test. He bowled just 21 overs in Perth and told Adelaide's Advertiser newspaper he was underdone.

He said he expected to be replaced by spinner Brad Hogg.

AFP

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