By the time you read this, it will be clear whether Ricky Ponting goes in with an unchanged attack in the fourth Test or not, but about 24 hours before the start, he was unsure of what to do. Or at least, he was not ready to disclose if Brad Hogg would return to the XI in place of Shaun Tait.
This was starkly in contrast to the Australian way of doing things because they had announced their XI a day before the match in the last three Tests. This was all the more surprising keeping in mind the fact that Ponting himself felt there would be turn on offer and even advocated that India should use an extra spinner.
“They would be better off with two spinners, otherwise they might just struggle for the right balance,” said Ponting and even explained why India could think of doing that.
"Harbhajan didn’t give me a chance to impose myself on him (in Melbourne and Sydney) and may just fancy his chance yet again.”
With the scars of the Perth defeat yet to heal, that was too generous of an Australian captain, trying to tell the Indians how to be more effective. And as if to keep them confused, he was not telling what his plans with Hogg would be, especially after the left-arm wrist spinner had been moderately successful in the first two Tests.
“He is our best spinner and did well in Melbourne and Sydney. Given a chance here, he will do the same again, but there are some thoughts running through our head. The wicket looks pretty dry and good for batting, but we haven’t finalised our XI. We are still weighing the options in pace and spin.”
Ponting said he was tempted to field the local quick for the pace he adds to the attack. “Historically, this pitch favours spinners, but with Tait around you’ve to have a rethink. He’s a wicket-taking bowler and has taken many for South Australia here with the new ball and the old ball. And I think he didn’t get much of chance last week (in Perth).”
The problem with using four fast bowlers in the third Test was reflected in Australia’s poor over rate, which had forced Ponting to use the innocuous spin combination of Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds for a long time in a crucial phase of India’s second innings.
“Probably we didn’t use them too well in the first innings. That’s why we were a few overs short in the second innings and had no choice but to have them bowling from opposite ends. It can be changed if we do things differently in the first innings here.”
Ponting insisted his team had put behind the disappointment of losing the third Test. “Our winning run had to end some time and we had to lose one after winning 16 on the trot. We have identified the areas we’ve to work on and all the problems have been addressed. We are going to be very, very aggressive in this Test, since there is nothing to lose.”
That, however, struck a discordant note. It’s not that Australia have nothing to lose. They have already lost the chance to notch up what would have been a record 17th consecutive Test victory and if they lose here, the series they were expecting to wrap up 4-0 will finish 2-2. With this at stake, they have a lot to play for, because they have a lot to lose.