Retaining Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be tough for Ponting

September 22nd, 2008 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 22 (IANS) Unfavourable stats stare at Ricky Ponting when he sits down to plan his strategy for the four-Test series against India. The Australian captain knows that it would take some doing to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy this time around.Ponting is leading a side with only four players of his 14-member squad having played Test cricket in India. But he has the best record of all Australian captains. In 44 Tests he has lost only four Tests, importantly two of them have been against India. One of these was the only match he played on the previous Test tour four years ago, reports The Australian.

Ponting missed the first three matches on the 2004 tour through injury and Adam Gilchrist led the Australia side to cross what Steve Waugh said was the ‘Final Frontier’ by winning the first Test series in India for 35 years. Ponting led in the last Test only to lose narrowly on a dreadful pitch.

The other loss against India under Ponting came during the third Test last summer in Perth before Australia drew the final Test in Adelaide to seal a difficult 2-1 series victory.

Because Australia already holds the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Ponting needs only to draw this series to retain the most hard-fought piece of silverware in Cricket Australia’s cluttered cabinet.

But even that will be tough given that Australia has won just four Tests in India from six series since Bill Lawry’s team triumphed there 3-1 in 1969.

Ponting’s only two other losses were during the 2005 tour of England, when Australia lost the Ashes for the first time in almost two decades.

However, that aberration was righted when England was thrashed 5-0 in Australia two summers ago.

Ponting has an exceptional record in one-day cricket, twice leading Australia to World Cup glory undefeated, and as a Test captain has a winning percentage of 75, better than any other skipper who has led his side in more than 10 Tests.

Steve Waugh is next with a winning percentage of 72 from 57 Tests in charge and Don Bradman third with a 62.5 per cent success rate in 24 Tests as captain.

For Ponting to maintain that record, it will take something between an exceptional performance and a miracle given that none of his bowlers have played a Test in India and his spinners, Bryce McGain, 36 and Jason Krejza, 25, have not played Test cricket at all.

“Even some of our more senior players like Brett Lee haven’t played a Test there so we are reasonably inexperienced in Test-match conditions in India but all the guys have played their fair share of one-day cricket there,” Ponting said.

“What has been great about the last 12 months is how competitive we’ve been in Tests since this big change of players.

“We’ve got great depth and it’s exciting to see these other guys getting an opportunity.”

Australia’s 2004 success was built around an attack of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Shane Warne. Injury prevented Warne playing in the last Test of the series, which Australia lost on a spinning pitch.

Of the four who have previously played Tests in India — Ponting, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich — Katich may not even get a game depending on injuries and team balance.

It would continue a very unlucky career for Katich, who scored centuries in his previous two Tests opening the batting during the West Indian tour when Hayden was injured.

Should a fit Hayden return to the top of the order with Phil Jaques and Shane Watson slot into the all-rounder’s position at number six in place of the absent Andrew Symonds, as expected, there would be no obvious opening for Katich in a middle order that includes Clarke and Mike Hussey.

The alternative would be to play Katich instead of Watson, which appears unlikely, or Katich ahead of one of the rookie spinners. That would leave Clarke’s left-arm finger spin and the occasional left-arm wrist spin of Katich for variety.

Given the approach of Indian batsmen to spin, particularly in India, there appears no easy answer.

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