Ahmedabad: The aura of invincibility remained inconspicuous by its absence through the league stage, but senior batsman Michael Hussey feels Australia still have the necessary firepower to knock pre-tournament favourites India out of the World Cup.
The two sides meet in a high-voltage quarterfinal clash at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera here on Thursday. "I don`t really care (about general perception that Australia is no longer unbeatable). We have done particularly well in the sub-continent over the last few years. We have won quite a few series here.
"We go into this game with a lot of confidence because we have played well against India in Indian conditions in the last few years and won. I think we have a great chance," Hussey told reporters here.
"We are very excited to be here. We have a great match against India. It`s going to be a great spectacle for the fans in a packed stadium. It`s a blockbuster match. We are looking forward to it," said Hussey, who was included in the team as a replacement for injured left-arm pacer Doug Bollinger.
Australia`s 34-match winning streak in the tournament dating back to 1999 was snapped by Pakistan, who won their concluding Group A league clash in Colombo on Saturday, but the 35-year-old Hussey was optimistic about his team`s chances and take that confidence further to retain their title. "This is a huge game for us. Teams who win their quarterfinals, win well and take that confidence into the semifinals. We believe if we beat India we will have a great chance to go on to win the tournament," he said.
Hussey did not read too much into India`s batting collapses against England, South Africa and the West Indies and said the Australians can put enough pressure on the home side`s strong batting line-up and clinch the semifinal berth. "We have to put pressure on all the Indian batsmen; they are fantastic players, no question about that. We have done well against India in the past in one-day cricket. We are sure it will continue in the next game.
"We have to go hard for every single run. It`s going to be a tight game. We have to put pressure on the Indians. We have to really go hard and get as many runs and put the Indian fielders under pressure," said the left-handed batsman who has played 154 ODIs.
Hussey brushed aside reports in Australia that Ricky Ponting`s captaincy is at stake, saying the entire team is backing the two-time World Cup-winning skipper.
"No worries at all. He has been doing this job for a long time. He`s certainly got the full support of the team. He`s been criticised over minor things. They have been blown out of proportions. He`s been playing well and just like a champion rises to the occasion at the right time, on Thursday we will see the best of Ricky Ponting," he said. Ponting goes into the tie with only 102 runs under his belt from six matches, with 36 being his highest score, in the tournament so far. He has also been criticised for losing temper on and off the field too.
Hussey warned the Indian batsmen to expect short stuff from his team`s three-pronged pace attack. "They would like to be aggressive, take quick wickets and baffle Indian batsmen with some short stuff," he said.
Despite the loss to Pakistan in their concluding group league fixture, Hussey did not expect too many changes in the playing eleven in the quarterfinal.
"I am not a selector but I don`t anticipate many changes (as) it would be dangerous to change the combination too much," he pointed out. He expected the wicket to be a slow turner and said his team would have to be well-prepared to counter it and the performance of the top three batsmen would give an indication of what total to set.
"The total depends on the conditions. Have to sum up those conditions quickly. Generally here it can be low and slow spinning sort of pitch. We have to prepare well for that. Communication from the top three batsmen will give us a bit of an indication about what sort of score would be a good score or par score and would try and work towards it," he said.
Hussey expected Zaheer Khan, India`s leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 15 to his credit, to be the danger man after having grown in stature since the 2003 World Cup final, when his first over was a disaster against Australia at Johannesburg. "He`s a very experienced cricketer who knows his game very well. That`s important for a cricketer, having experience and knowing your own game very well. Another thing is that he bowls well throughout the whole innings, with the new ball and is very skillful with the old ball too. He`s a proven performer," he said.
Hussey said the Australians are well prepared for the hot conditions here as well as the length of the tournament. "In Australia we are very well prepared. We make sure we train very hard. We make sure before tournament starts we will be 100 per cent fit in body and mind. It varies with different players," he remarked.