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Ponting Returns, Wants To Show No Mercy To India Email this page
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Mumbai, Nov. 2 (NNN): As the Indians look for a consolation win after losing the series, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting returns for the fourth and final Test against India starting at the Wankhede stadium here on Wednesday determined not to show the beleaguered hosts any mercy.
Injured for the first three matches in which Australia gained an unassailable lead, Ponting said: "We have been on the receiving end here a few times. I think the guys will be keen to finish off the series how we started.

Australia's coach John Buchanan added: "Winning is a habit. It's important we finish off well here."

Ponting finally takes over from stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist for the last Test. He comes in for the injured Darren Lehmann in what could be the only change from the side that crushed India by 342 runs in the third Test at Nagpur.

It was the first Test series win for Australia in India since 1969, but with the primary goal achieved, one of the three seamers may be rested to give Brett Lee a game.

While Ponting returns, his counterpart Sourav Ganguly will be sidelined for a second consecutive Test after failing to recover from the groin injury sustained earlier in the series.

The Indian starting XI will show four changes from Nagpur.

Opener Aakash Chopra and wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel are both dropped while the fit-again Harbhajan Singh and left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra are expected to come into the side.

The firm, brown pitch, prepared by former Test captain Polly Umrigar, will not be as seam bowler-friendly as the green top in Nagpur.

However, local reports suggest it will assist bounce and movement at the start.

Curator Sadanand Rao said: "It will be faster than Bangalore and Chennai, but not as quick as Nagpur. "It should take big turn later in the match, but a bowler like Shane Warne will probably turn the ball on day one," he said.

Wright Worried: Meanwhile, Indian coach John Wright is a worried man. For the first time since he took over as coach, the Indian team lost a Test series at home. Added to that, India's batsmen are all woefully out of form, and the touring Australian team is determined to rub salt into the wounds inflicted in the first three Tests of the series.

In Bangalore, the wicket was termed as 'terrible' by the Aussie media. The Chennai pitch was a beauty, while the one in Nagpur suited the Australian bowlers. So, as the teams prepare for the Mumbai Test, the pitch is undoubtedly the cynosure of all eyes.

"Looks like a turner. All we have ever asked for is a good wicket. We need a wicket that will last five days. Our batters need to get scores on the board no matter what the wicket is like. This looks like one that will turn sooner rather than later," Wright said on Monday.

"Three spinners are definitely a possibility. Sachin [Tendulkar] been bowling very quickly in the nets, and looking at the wicket we may just decide on three spinners. But the final decision on that will only be taken on the morning of the match," he added.

However, everything Wright spoke about was tinged with sadness. He is a very competitive person and seeing his side go down meekly to the Australians has obviously hurt a lot. "We have four new players in the squad; the series is lost. It is a fresh start for us. We have to battle for our pride. We need our batsmen to rediscover their form. We want to win this Test badly.

"Disappointing in Bangalore, rain played spoilsport in Chennai and Nagpur was tough. The wicket suited their seamers more, and we need to put runs on board. They bowled well at us," he said.

Injuries to key players meant that the Indians were never quite at full strength in any of the Tests. Laxmipathy Balaji missed all the three Testswhile Tendulkar sat out of the first two. Injuries to Sourav Ganguly and Irfan Pathan robbed the side of two more key performers in the third Test in Nagpur.

"Injuries to key players at the wrong time plagued us. But the replacements and seniors needed to deal with it. We try to minimize the injuries and we [Wright, along with Andrew Leipus and Gregory King] have done pretty well. Cricket is a fact of life and injuries do happen."

However, Wright also looks at the Mumbai Test as a chance for India to redeem itself. "We have a chance to turn that [the form book] around. You ought to be able to compete and fight, but we didn't do that at Nagpur in the second innings and that was disappointing.

"We have class players. The key is to stick with the players. They will get there in the end. I believe they [the out-of-form batsmen] will get around. We were getting right in Chennai, but played against a good attack. Sometimes it just doesn't run for you. Laxman got out twice in Chennai to half-trackers. Bad shot selection or just plain bad luck..."

When the Aussies were here [in India] in 2001, Harbhajan Singh had run amok and claimed a record 32 wickets in the series. But Wright believes that considering the improvements in the Aussies' technique against spin it is highly unlikely to happen again.

"They [Australia] played spin significantly better right down the order; the bowlers, as a unit, worked well and as a team they combined well. They have had continued exposure to the conditions -- they played an ODI series last year and before that they visited Sri Lanka. As a result they have got used to the conditions," Wright said.

Indeed, Australia's planning has been superb. The flow of runs was reduced to a trickle in Nagpur and, in general, the number of boundaries conceded in this series, as against the past few series between the two nations, has gone down.

"They have stopped the boundaries and that has meant in a momentum loss. But we could have averted that fate if someone had played a big innings. But we had no really big innings," moaned the Kiwi-born coach of the Indian team.

Sachin Tendulkar looked shaky in Nagpur. He looked like a batsman who wasn't quite sure what his course of action should be. "If Sachin says he is ready to play, then he is ready to play. He is a big part of the side and I trust him a lot. So if he tells me he is ready, then that's good enough for me."

With four new players -- Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Kartik, Dheeraj Jadhav, Shib Sundar Paul -- in the squad, the Indian team has a new look. And Wright only wishes the new lads the best of luck. "The kids look good. They are young and talented. Hope they can go out and be successful right at the start," he said.

* The Two Teams:

India squad: Rahul Dravid (Captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Dinesh Karthik (Wicketkeeper), Dheeraj Jadhav, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Shib Paul.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (Captain), M L Hayden, J L Langer, S M Katich, D R Martyn Lehmann, M J Clarke, A C Gilchrist (Wicketkeeper), S K Warne M S Kasprowicz, J N Gillespie, G D McGrath.


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