Australia still pack punch, says Ponting
Ricky Ponting remains unsure what attack he will have in the first cricket Test against India but believes Australia still pack their punch post Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
Australia won’t name their final XI until Wednesday morning because the captain and selectors wanted extra time to analyse an MCG wicket which has had its preparation hampered by rain the past week.
Ponting said the wicket still looked damp on Tuesday morning, but sunshine in the afternoon and forecast good weather on Wednesday will help it dry for the series opener.
Still, with conditions likely to favour fast bowling in the morning, Australia must decide between using an all-pace attack for the first time in almost 16 years, and picking spinner Brad Hogg and three quicks.
Young speedsters Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait will battle for the third spot if Hogg plays.
The decision is an intriguing one given Johnson’s impressive start to Test cricket the variety of his left-arm swing, while Tait’s pace and knack of ripping through opposition sides makes him dangerous.
Good weather is forecast throughout the match, but Ponting expected Wednesday’s early pace-friendly conditions to make the selectors’ decision a tough one.
“You’ve just got to try to get the conditions right with the players you’ve got available,” he said.
“If it looks like it’s going to be pretty damp in the morning then we’ve got a tough decision to make.”
It could also make for a tough call for Ponting should he win the toss, as he famously came in for heavily criticism in England in 2005, when he inserted Michael Vaughan’s side at Edgbaston.
England won that Test and later regained the Ashes.
Regardless of which attack Australia get as they seek a 15th successive victory, Ponting was confident it would be more dangerous and boast more variety than the outfits which struggled to bowl India out four years ago, when McGrath was injured and Warne was suspended.
Ponting said spearhead Brett Lee was in career-best form, after a man of the series performance against Sri Lanka last month, Stuart Clark’s record (54 wickets from 11 matches) was among the best in the world and Johnson had been impressive.
“I’m very confident in the attack that we’ve got, that it’s going to be good enough to take 20 wickets in every Test we play this summer, so I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Ponting said.
Ponting said even with McGrath and Warne and their combined 1271 wickets retired, Australia had the bowlers to land big blows on India’s star batsmen.
“(Lee) is a wicket-taking bowler and for different reasons to Shane was,” he said.
“That’s what Tait is as well.
“If Tait happens to play in this game he’s exactly like that, he’s a guy who can break a game open in a couple of overs.
“So the wicket-taking options we lost with McGrath and Warne, we’ve just gained other guys in different roles to do that for us.”
Ponting said it was important Australia learned from prior mistakes to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and not bowl too short and over-attack India’s bats.
Only a handful of Australians took part in Tuesday’s training session before Christmas lunch, but all Indian players trained to make up for their limited preparation.
The Melbourne Cricket Club expects a first-day crowd of 75,000.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait (12th man to be named).
India (from): Anil Kumble (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Pankaj Singh, RP Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar.