Indians putting up smokescreen on Bhajji`s fitness: Ponting

Mohali: The Indian team might be trying to put up a smokescreen by declaring Harbhajan Singh a doubtful starter for tomorrow`s opening Test, says Australian skipper Ricky Ponting who claims to have seen the off-spinner practice at the nets the day he twisted his ankle.

"I don`t think he is doubtful. The day he had his ankle twisted (September 27) he spent the evening bowling at centre wicket in Sector 16 (cricket stadium at Chandigarh). I think India might be trying to put a smoke screen. If he doesn`t play they still have spinners like Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha to take his place," Ponting said at a pre-match press conference.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had earlier declared Harbbhajan a doubtful starter for tomorrow`s match in his press conference today.

With just two matches to be played, Ponting sees little room for any slip-ups.

"We love to come here and win. It is about remaining competitive and giving ourselves a chance to win," Ponting said when asked if Australia was viewing the upcoming contest as a revenge series.

"We want to make sure that we start the game well and get our plans right. We are pretty confident that we will have a good start," he added.

Ponting said they had a good warm-up game against the Indian Board President`s XI and they were looking forward to the "great challenge" of taking on the top-ranked Test team in the world.

"This time around our bowlers a little bit more experienced. It`s about us playing a brand of cricket so as to remain competitive for two Tests and win them," he said.

Asked about the wicket, Ponting said, "we did have a look at the wicket yesterday but haven`t had a look today. Couple of our guys spoke to groundsmen and he reckoned that there will be more moisture underneath the surface."

Ponting said some key batsmen of his team had shown good form ahead of the series.

Asked if pacer Doug Bollinger and batsman Mike Hussey had settled down after they joined the team yesterday after the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa, the Aussie skipper said, "though the Test preparation for the two was not ideal, they had a good practice session yesterday."

When asked about the verbal showdowns that generally garner headlines during India-Australia series, Ponting said he the visitors were looking forward to a tightly fought contest.

Ponting said India and Australia were playing against each other more than ever before "which is great thing for the game and great for both countries."

Ponting also dismissed speculation that he was going to hang his boots in near future.

"The finish line is not in sight yet and I may be in India for another tour," the 35-year-old said.

He said Sachin Tendulkar was a good inspiration, who at 37 years, was only getting better and had accumulated six tons over the past year.

"I am more focused on my preparations and fitness. I know what I need to do to give myself the best chance of playing well. That`s all I can control and then I get out into the middle and it`s about making big runs," he said, adding that he was looking to be more consistent.


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