JOHANNESBURG // Ricky Ponting has started the mind games ahead of his side's tour of South Africa by suggesting the Proteas could suffocate under the pressure of striving to become the leading Test nation in the world. The winning team in the three-Test series will assume the No 1 spot in the International Cricket Council's official rankings, adding spice to what is already a highly- anticipated match-up between the two countries.
Before leaving for South Africa, Ponting, the Australia captain, declared the heat would be on the hosts. "There won't be any added pressure on us, maybe on South Africa with that [becoming No 1] at the back of their minds," he said. "They have probably been striving for a long time to be recognised as the No 1 Test team in the world. So maybe that will weigh on their minds more than ours." Ponting was also happy to go into a series as an underdog for one of the few times in his career. Australia lost the three-Test series 2-1 against the South Africa at home last month.
"You wouldn't have to be Einstein to work out they are going to be favourites," he said. "If we can get off to a great start over there - and with them being favourites and with lot of expectation from their people and their crowds - who knows, things could turn against them pretty quickly." Ponting also backed the rookie pace bowling trio - Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle - to make up for the absence of front-line pacemen Stuart Clark and Brett Lee, just like Glenn McGrath did on the tour of West Indies in 1995.
"If you look back to a tour like the West Indies in 1995, that's where Glenn McGrath really stood up and made a name for himself when Craig McDermott and a few of the guys went down injured," the captain said. Siddle has played just four Tests, Bollinger has one and Hilfenhaus is yet to make his debut. * With agencies