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Nielsen backs Johnson to rattle Indians

Melbourne: Australian coach Tim Nielsen feels left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson’s impressive one-day record against India would stand him in good stead for the four-Test series.

Johnson has troubled Indian batsmen in the shorter form of the game and was the highest wicket-taker in the recent seven-match one-day series with 14 scalps.

The tall Queenslander has 19 wickets from nine ODIs against India, which includes hauls of four for 11 in Kuala Lumpur last year and five for 26 in Vadodara in October, when he took 14 wickets in Australia’s 4-2 series win.

“He’s knocked over their (India’s) top-order consistently over the last couple of years, which we’ll be taking it into account for certain, I believe,” Nielsen said.

Strong performances by speedster Shaun Tait in the Twenty20 game and ODI series against New Zealand, when Johnson did not find a place in the team, had given rise to speculation that the two could be fighting for one spot in the Melbourne Test beginning on Wednesday.

However, Nielsen said Johnson’s good start in Test cricket against Sri Lanka and a strong record against India would work in his favour.

“When the selectors sit down and have a look at the best mix for a team against India, I’m sure the fact that Mitchell’s knocked over the likes of (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Sourav) Ganguly and (Rahul) Dravid consistently over the last couple of years will be a big tick in his box.”

The coach indicated that as both fast bowlers were in prime form, the situation provided a happy problem for selectors.

“It’s one of the difficult things having such a successful side and good depth,” Nielsen said in deciding the make-up of the bowling attack.

“Mitchell’s biggest challenge now is not worrying about what he has to do to get back in (the team) but turning up on December 26 as organised and as ready as he can be to take his opportunity,” he added.

He also felt the new-found aggression reflected the growing confidence among the Indians.

“They were more aggressive and positive when they toured Australia four years ago. I guess the presence of younger players has assisted the process like the way Sreesanth stood up. They are developing a culture of confidence with which comes aggression,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen expects India to field both their spinners in the first Test and revealed that his own side could go with three medium-pacers and a spinner for the game.

“I have a feeling it could be three and one. This wicket could go on to be a bit slow and favouring spin in the latter part of the match. India could also be two and two (two medium-pacers and two spinners),” he said.

“It’s a perception thing. Sometimes when you are ageing you are perhaps more aware of what it needs to take to survive such a long tour. At other times, you could feel the strain. So it could work either way,” he said.

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