Bangalore, Sept. 27: More than any other team, the Australians have mastered the art of mind games. If Steve Waugh had a doctorate, present captain Ricky Ponting is not far from qualifying for it either.
Earlier this year, in the lead-up to the World Cup, he’d gone out of his way to remind the fraternity that the Indians were “poor travellers”.
Instead of proving Ponting wrong, Rahul Dravid and his men performed so poorly that he was proved right. As for Ponting himself, he led Australia to another World Cup triumph — third in a row, with the 2003 win also under his captaincy.
This morning, two days before the latest ODI series against India, Ponting drew a distinction between India’s World Twenty20 success and the No.1 ranking his team enjoys in both Tests and ODIs.
“I think too much is being made of the Twenty20 win... It’s over and we’re the world Test champions and champions in 50 overs cricket.... The pressure is really going to be on India, particularly on some players,” he said.
If that was a rather general observation, Ponting chose to go after the Big 3 — Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Dravid — who’d opted out of the Twenty20.
“It’s unfortunate that some of the younger guys who were in the (Twenty20) team will be making way for the senior players to come back... I guess the thing for us is that we’ve played against these guys a lot and should know their strengths and weaknesses very, very well....
“So, if anything, it will probably make it easier for us to prepare with these guys in the team.... We’ve got plans for individual players....”
While Sreesanth launched verbal volleys (“the Australians are dreaming if they’re thinking of beating us”) from hometown Kochi, Ponting actually had nice things to say about the temperamental speedster.
“I know Sreesanth’s aggression is going to be there. That’s what fast bowling is all about.... We’d expected him to be aggressive (in the World Twenty20 semis).... I expect our guys to play with a lot of aggression and be very positive.... We’re going to come out as aggressively as we probably can and impose ourselves on the Indians... If we do that, we’ll go a long way in winning the series.”
Sreesanth, of course, was fined for going overboard in the semis.
The ICC Captain of the Year is recovering from a hamstring injury, but his tone during a chat with The Telegraph suggested he was hopeful of being fit for the full series.
After the seven ODIs, India and Australia face off in a Twenty20 shootout as well.
The five India players not part of the Twenty20 squad had nets this afternoon (among the bowlers was Test specialist Anil Kumble). Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the rest are going to report by noon tomorrow.
Saturday’s ODI will be Dhoni’s first as captain, the honour coming his way within 33 months of his India debut, in Bangladesh.