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Sourav rubbishes Hookes claim
- India captain labels comments as ‘incorrect and unfair’

Brisbane: Team India captain Sourav Ganguly on Friday rejected claims he backed out of a deal with Victorian state coach David Hookes before the tourists’ opening clash in Melbourne.

Sourav dismissed suggestions he and Hookes agreed before the start that each side would declare after 70 overs in the three-day match which ended in a tedious draw on Thursday.

But Sourav labelled Hookes’ comments “incorrect and unfair”. “I don’t think that is correct,” he said. “He gave us an offer, but I said: ‘We’re playing the first game of a tour, and our batters need a longer hit in the middle.’

“When teams come from the sub-continent they need to get used to the bounce of Australian pitches.”

Sourav said his tactics would change little in this weekend’s clash with Queensland Academy of Sport — virtually a Queensland second XI — starting Saturday. This will be the last warm-up game before the start of the first of four Tests on Thursday.

Hookes, a former Australian Test batsman, was incensed when India, after winning the toss, batted for 90 overs in their first innings of the Melbourne Cricket Ground encounter.

He claimed Sourav agreed that whoever won the toss would bat for only 70 overs — but then changed his mind after winning it. Hookes accused India of making the three-day match “a glorified net session”, rather than trying to manufacture a result.

Talking about India’s performance in Melbourne, Sourav said his top-order showed they had handled the bounce better in the second innings.

He expected further improvement in batting and bowling against the Queensland team. But he said he would not chase a result at Allan Border Field, preferring to get “good practice”.

“It’s important to get a winning spirit, but when you play these three-day games it’s not enough time to get a side out twice,” Sourav added.

With Border Field traditionally a flat batting wicket, Sourav admitted he would have preferred to play this match on the bouncier Gabba wicket, but did not want to criticise tour organisers. The Gabba pace and bounce will encourage Australia’s selectors to consider picking a four-prong pace attack in the first Test.

However, Sourav believed Australia would not make leg-spinner Stuart MacGill as 12th man and felt Australia could be vulnerable without Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. “McGrath and Warney will be missed, no doubt about it. When they didn’t play against England two years ago, Australia suffered in Sydney.

“They make a huge difference because they pick most wickets or have picked most wickets for their country in the last eight or ten years,” Sourav said.

“It is like when teams come to India, they find Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh missing from our line-up. They would be missed but then injury, especially in the case of fast bowlers, is part and parcel of modern cricket,” Sourav said.

“They have a good back-up strength and it will still be a very good attack for the Test,” Sourav said. “MacGill has picked up a lot of wickets in the last two series, even otherwise he has been very successful,” he said. “But I really can’t comment about their composition, only we have to be prepared to do our best.”

“Bracken bowled very well in India but a Test is different. It would be good opportunity for him to learn cricket.”

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