Ponting tips Indians to maintain their rage over a long and heated summer
IT WASN’T just Indian crowds who took a more confrontational attitude towards Australia this month. The Indian players themselves – led by paceman Shantha Sreesanth – gave no quarter in front of boisterous stadiums on home soil.
But as a string of visiting teams and players have discovered (most notably combative South African captain Graeme Smith), maintaining the hard line during a long summer tour can be a challenge. Yet Australian Test and one-day captain Ricky Ponting, back from a successful limited-overs tour of India, has forecast a similar battle when the Indians tour here from December.
“They made it pretty clear right at the start of the series they were going to fight fire with fire but for us we know that’s generally not the way they play their cricket,” Ponting said. “We’ve got a lot of cricket against them in the next few months so it will be interesting to see just how long that aggressive-natured cricket does last from them.”
The Indians arrive in Australia after a home series against Pakistan and have just one three-day match against Victoria to prepare for the Boxing Day Test. By the time January ends they will have played four Tests before the caravan rolls into a triangular one-day series with Sri Lanka. NSW leg spinner Stuart MacGill, desperate to fill Shane Warne’s large void this summer, echoed Ponting’s theme.
“If you believe in yourself and you’re convinced the way you’re playing is the right way to play then it doesn’t really matter how you carry yourself,” he said.
“It’s always a danger if you’re trying to become someone you’re not because you’ve got to concentrate on a whole lot of things out on the field, not just bowling. I try and keep it as simple as I can because bowling to [Sachin] Tendulkar is hard enough.”
The aggressive stance was harder away from home, MacGill noted. “It’s always easier when you’ve got a lot of support at home to ride your emotions,” he said. “They only need to look around and know they’ve got a billion countrymen supporting them. I think you’ll find it doesn’t work for them if they’re pretending.”
With headlines about the racist sledging of all-rounder Andrew Symonds dominating the Indian tour, Ponting appealed to Australian crowds to treat the Indians as “they would any other team”.
“I don’t think they should be treated any differently because of what’s happened over there,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned this whole racism stuff is completely unacceptable in any walk of life, let alone on a sporting field. I’m sure that at different times Sreesanth and a few of the guys will cop a hard time from the Australian fans. That will generally happen at some stage to most teams that tour here, but I just hope – I’ll keep my fingers crossed – there’s no racial stuff comes up at all through the summer.”
Ponting said he had not spoken with the Indian players about their crowds’ taunting of Symonds with monkey noises and gestures but said they should have been embarrassed by the incidents.
“I imagine they would be,” he said. “They should be. I would be in Australia.”
Ponting said Sreesanth, who clashed with Symonds several times during the tour, used some of the combative armoury of a fast bowler, and expected the fire and brimstone to continue should he lead the attack in Australia.
“He generally does have a bit more aggression about him, a bit more body language than some of their other players do,” Ponting said. “They’re fairly passive sort of people, Indians, and he’s probably one from left field.”
Ponting said leading the attack in Australia would be a challenge.
“I think that’s always been their greatest challenge when they come to Australia, bowling us out twice,” he said. “They’ll bring a couple of spinners. Harbhajan [Singh] and [Murali] Kartik have been bowling really well and [Anil] Kumble will be in their Test squad.”