Australia braces for strengthened India

NEW DELHI: The return of two of India's most explosive batsmen poses a threat to Australia's efforts to build on impressive recent form when the two sides meet in the latest chapter of their escalating rivalry. Riding on the one-day form that has seen it win 11 of its past 12 one-day games, world champion Australia has arrived determined to avenge its loss at home in last year's tri-series to Mahendra Dhoni's India side.

With the seven-match limited-overs series that begins Sunday in the western city of Vadodara, Australia captain Ricky Ponting is confident of reproducing the form that saw his team win six of seven matches against England this year and then defend its Champions Trophy title. "We've been playing consistently good one-day cricket, I expect that to continue over the next couple of weeks in India," Ponting said.

Ponting's team, however, is missing some key players: vice-captain Michael Clarke (back), in-form batsman Callum Ferguson, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (finger) and seasoned pace bowler Nathan Bracken (knee). Tim Paine, standing in for Haddin as wicketkeeper after Australia lost the Ashes test series in England, has displayed good form with the bat, while all-rounder Shane Watson's successive centuries in the Champions Trophy provided a big boost.

India was knocked out of the preliminary round in the Champions Trophy, but Ponting felt Dhoni's side would be a different proposition on its home turf. "We all know how well the Indians play in their own conditions," said Ponting.

India's struggling batting order has been strengthened by the return of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh from injuries, even though pace ace Zaheer Khan is yet to regain match-fitness. Sehwag recovered from shoulder injury that sidelined the hard-hitting opener from the Twenty20 World Cup and Champions Trophy, while Yuvraj injured a finger during practice at the Champions Trophy.

"Confronting the Indian team in front of huge home crowds will be a big challenge," said Australia coach Tim Nielsen, reminding his players not to "get too emotionally into it." Ponting said the intensity of the contests between these two teams currently No.1 and 2 in ICC's one-day rankings had seen it develop into a genuine rivalry.


India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Sudeep Tyagi, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jon Holland, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges.