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Confident India seek to level series

As India go into the Adelaide Test, skipper Anil Kumble is faced with tricky selection issues, as Australia will look to close out the series.

cricket Updated: Jan 23, 2008 11:02 IST

Bolstered by the sensational win at Perth, India face a big dilemma on whether to alter their winning combination as they go into the the fourth and final cricket Test against Australia here tomorrow, seeking to level the engrossing four-match series.

The 72-run triumph at Perth, regarded as one of the greatest wins overseas, will no doubt serve as a tonic for Anil Kumble and his men who have now proved to be worthy challengers to the champion team.

But the selection dilemma confronting the visitors in their bid to level the series 2-2 is whether to bring back seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on an Adelaide track which was expected to help the slow bowlers on the last two days.

India's unheralded pace trio -- R P Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma -- were highly impressive at Perth and it will be a tough call to leave one of them out to accommodate Harbhajan.

"There are a few possibilities but we would like to take another look at the pitch. It (five bowlers) is an option and that is something we will definitely assess," and undecided Indian skipper Anil Kumble said at the pre-match press conference here today.

With Virender Sehwag being quite useful with his part-time off-spin at Perth, the team management may decided to retain the young pace attack which managed to extract a lot of swing in the last game.

But if the Indians opt for Harbhajan, Ishant Sharma appears to be the likely candidate to sit out as Pathan is quite handy with the bat also.

The other option for the visitors is to go in with a five-pronged bowling attack leaving out a batsman.

Opener Wasim Jaffer, who has failed in all the six innings so far, may also lose his place with Dinesh Kaarthick being the front runner to open the innings with Sehwag.

The Australians, whose 16-match winning streak was broken at the Perth, have also been strengthened with the towering Matthew Hayden returning to the team after an injury lay-off.

There is more than a hint of concern on the form of their key batsmen with Hayden and Andrew Symonds alone passing muster among its top batsmen who, not very long ago, were striking terror in the hearts of the bowlers.

Hayden was badly missed in Perth for the left-hander had raised 307 from the first two Tests at 76.75 while Symonds has 380 runs from the three games at 75.39 despite his relative failure in WACA.

Mike Hussey (270 at 49.45) and Michael Clarke (198 at 33.00) have raised eyebrows but nowhere has it widened in more disbelief than at the form of two of its legends, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist.

Ponting has suffered his first big slump in seven years and his mere 128 runs at 21.33 has hurt Australia real bad. The inability of Gilchrist to shore up the lower half is well reflected in his 136 runs at 22.66.

Swing has emerged as the big poser for the Australians and they reckon it is the presence of left-handers in their ranks -- five of them are southpaws---which is helping the cause of India's left-arm swing bowlers.

Ponting is hurt by his first loss as captain on home soil and by the growing din in the media that Australia is no longer invincible.

Gilchrist has had problems against every Indian bowler and the legendary wicketkeeper-batsman, due to play his 95th successive match, is under pressure enough to claim in local media that he wants to last for another year at least.

Not that Australia's bowling worries are less pronounced. Brett Lee is a class act but Mitchell Johnson has a long way to go and Stuart Clark, despite his accuracy, still can not run through a side.

Brad Hogg, the left-arm spinner set to return to the side, has a question mark on his ability because of his tardy spell on the final day of the Sydney Test. This has left Ponting in a bit of dilemma on the final composition of the team.

"We haven't finalised our team yet, we'll sleep on it and make the announcement at the toss tomorrow morning," he said.

"We've got a few things we want to run through our heads about our make up and about that wicket," he added.

India appears to be a better balanced team than the world champions at the moment. Their batsmen are refusing to budge in face of Australia's pace fury and seniors, such as Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, have largely been immovable.

Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly and the lesser ones such as Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble, give a real depth to the line-up.

India's bowlers, but for Anil Kumble, are no world beaters but they bowled well as a unit and really complimented each other a great deal. They have successfully dragged Australian batsmen on the front foot and induced them to drive.

The conditions at Adelaide are expected to be good for batting for the first three days. The game tends to move quickly thereafter when the pitch tends to increasingly get up and down.

Rain is forecast for the third day but it is not alarming and the game should go the distance. The quality of cricket dished out in this series should again come to the fore.

The teams:

Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (capt), Phil Jacques, Matthew Hayden, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait.

India (from): Anil Kumble (capt), Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Kaarthick, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Wasim Jaffer.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZ) and Asad Rauf (Pak).

Match Referee: Mike Procter (South Africa)