Sportstar Archives: Ricky Ponting - 'India has been the toughest team in the subcontinent'

In this interview, Australia batsman Ricky Ponting speaks about his team's urge to win the Test series in India.

Ricky Ponting during a tour match against the Board President's XI in New Delhi.   -  V. V. Krishnan

Though Justin Langer escaped a dolly chance to score a century, it was Tasmanian Ricky Ponting who appeared to be at ease against the India 'A' spinners in the three-day game in Nagpur. After reaching Mumbai for the second warm-up game against the Ranji Trophy winner, Ponting spoke about Australia's urge to win the series in India and about his early form on the tour.

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Excerpts...

You made two half centuries (against India 'A' in Nagpur). It's a nice way to start a tour, isn't it?

Yeah it is. But I was a little disappointed that I did not get a big score. It would have been nice if I had got a hundred. What we need in India is our batters to get big scores, not to get 50s and 60s, but hundreds and get big hundreds. There's been a big build up for the tour. India has always been hard to beat in their conditions.

How would you assess India's attack without Anil Kumble?

He was India's trump card in 1998. India's attack will be diminished because Anil has always been a tremendous bowler. He has done well against Australia in the past. Not having him is a bit of a bonus for us, but we can expect another Indian spinner to come up in the first Test match.

What difference do you see between the two tours - the one of 1998 and now three years later?

I think we have all learned from the last tour. Each time you play a game or a Test match in the sub-continent you learn something from it. We went to Sri Lanka last year and learnt a bit to combat spin bowling. One has to wait and see the improvement I have made in these conditions. I have worked on my own game and learnt to play in these conditions. I am a batsman, as everyone else is in the team. But the good thing about our team is that there are 11 to 13 players who are all trying to achieve the same goal. We are all here to perform at our best and win the Test matches. We are all here with pretty high expectations and the aim is to score many runs.

Ricky Ponting had a good outing in the Australians' tour opener against India 'A' in Nagpur, getting a half century in each innings. Here he leaves the field after a satisfying knock. - N. Balaji

 

Would you say that Australia is more keen to visit the sub-continent now? Australia visited India in 1998, Pakistan also in 1998, Sri Lanka in 2000 and is in India in 2001.

It's always been our biggest challenge... playing in the sub-continent. Even in the last five or six years since I have been in the team, playing in the sub-continent has not been our strongest point. We gradually got better. We really played well in Pakistan. But we did not play quite as well in Sri Lanka. I think all the guys here know what they have to do. Personally, things have not gone too bad for me. I was the vice-captain of the side for a Test match last summer. So things have been going along nicely for me. I did not get many runs in Tests the last time when I was here. Hopefully, things will be different this time.

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Some of the great Australian players did not play in India; Sir Donald Bradman, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee... but things have changed since. What's the mindset of an Australian cricketer now?

Personally, I have always been keen to come to India. This time around there has been a big build up because we have not won here for 31 years and are keen to change that. We have been speaking about this series for quite a long time in Australia. I know most of the guys are happy to be here and want to enjoy the tour as much as they can. We think that will help us. We want to play at our best and if we do that we will be very competitive. The key for all of us will be to work out a game plan against the spinners.

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Would you say that India is the toughest among the three teams in the sub-continent?

India has been the toughest. And India has always played well against us, especially in 1998. We were beaten pretty easily on that trip. That's probably been our hardest tour.

Did the injury (ankle) in the final of the C & U Series last year upset you?

Well, that set me back a little bit. I missed the tours to New Zealand and South Africa. I missed some cricket, but probably it was not that bad as it could have been if I had had that injury at the start of the summer. It would have been worse. I missed only three Test matches against New Zealand and nine or ten one-day games.

(This article was first published in the Sportstar magazine on March 10, 2001)

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