Johannesburg: Captains of Australia and South Africa -- Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith – are leaving no stone unturned in upping the ante through mind games ahead of what promises to be a competitive Test series on South African soil.
While Ponting has said that his side and he are not in South Africa to pass on the baton of World Champions to South Africa, Smith as rubbished his Australian counterparts claims of his side being under pressure to retain the tag of favourites to win in the wake of the Proteas series victory in Australia.
The world Test Championship trophy lay in front of Ponting, glistening like a diamond, but he seemed in two minds about its worth.
The first time he was asked if the trophy was important, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying: "I'd be lying if I said it's the reason we play the game."
Asked again, he replied: "Anyone who plays a team sport or an individual sport, to be recognised as the best, that''s what playing international sport is about. We've held this trophy for a long time. It does mean a lot to us. It''s something we''ve never, ever taken for granted."
Though there are only two players in the team from Australia''s last Test in South Africa, in 2006 - Ponting and Hussey, Ponting is demanding that seniors "lead the way".
Ponting claims that Smith"s side would wilt under the pressure of favouritism.
"I remember at the end of the 2005 Ashes in England, we went back to Australia and regrouped. England then came to Australia as favourites, but they did not live up to expectation and could not handle the pressure," Ponting says.
Smith told The Sunday Times newspaper: "It [favouritism] is going to be an unusual place to be for a South African team. It''s a great feeling and a reward for all the sacrifices everyone has made. But we know that Australians are very competitive people and they don''t like to be on the back foot."