HYDERABAD // The Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes his team can rise above their inexperience in India and defeat the hosts in the four-Test series starting next week. Ponting said yesterday that Australia remained strong despite the retirements of several top players, such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, since their last Test tour of the country.
"Even though some of our big players have retired, we've managed to prove that we can still beat anybody," said Ponting. "We're confident that the younger players can deliver," he said. Only four players in the current Australian team have played Tests in India. "They might be inexperienced to Indian conditions, but they're not inexperienced," said Ponting, a point that has previously been reiterated by Sachin Tendulkar. Ponting added: "You have a lot of exuberance and enthusiasm when you have younger guys in the team."
Ponting also said the team were aware of Tendulkar's approaching landmark of overtaking Brian Lara for most Test runs. "He has always done well against us. We have some plans and we hope we can succeed." Ponting was speaking ahead of a warm-up game from Oct 2-5 against an Indian board XI. "We go into every game confident to play at a certain level, and we're good enough to beat anybody we play against," Ponting said.
The Test series begins on Oct 9 in Bangalore, also the venue of the first Test in the 2004 series which Australia won 2-1 to clinch a series on Indian soil after more than three decades. Ponting said the week-long training camp in Jaipur helped the team get acclimatised to Indian conditions, especially the pitches. The camp included a two-day game against a local side in which Australia's batsmen had some difficulty against young spinners.
"We did struggle against spin, but we're are confident for first Test," Ponting said. Meanwhile, the Australia captain expressed his satisfaction with the security despite the squad's security officer urging players to be extra careful following Saturday's bomb blast in New Delhi that killed one person and injured 22 others. "At the moment we're comfortable with the security assurances," Ponting said adding that they have not asked for any change in the schedule.
The third Test will be in New Delhi, which was hit by a series of bombs two weeks ago that killed 21 people and wounded about 100 others. On Monday, two bombs exploded in separate towns in western India killing seven people and wounding 45 others. Australia pulled out of a tour of Pakistan earlier this year due to concern over the level of political violence in the county, while also being at the forefront of a successful push for the International Cricket Council to postpone the Champions Trophy in Pakistan.
The Australia fast bowler Stuart Clark admitted, though, that the recent bombings were a concern. "It is pretty fresh in everyone's minds at the moment," Clark told an Australian radio channel. "We are still hanging out and waiting to see what will happen. I would be lying if I said there wasn't concern and that we are going to Delhi and there is that sort of thing going on." * Associated Press