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'India ready for epic Aus series'

Sourav Ganguly believes India are a stronger team now and will give Australia a tough time in the 4-match Test series.

cricket Updated: Dec 24, 2007 18:04 IST

India are a stronger side than when they last toured Australia in 2003 and will push Ricky Ponting's team all the way in their four-match Test series, said former captain Sourav Ganguly.

The 35-year-old batsman, who is making his 100th Test appearance when the sides meet at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26, captained the team in 2003 when India drew the series 1-1 and outplayed the hosts for prolonged periods.

"The last time we came to Australia in 2003 we had a weaker bowling attack and a few injuries," Ganguly told reporters on Monday.
"We have a better bowling attack this time and with (Mahendra) Dhoni coming in at number seven we have a deeper batting lineup. "Last time we came as underdogs and performed really well. It is the same this time but what happened in 2003 will have no bearing, it is what we do in these Test matches."

Solid form

India arrived in Australia last week having beaten Pakistan 1-0 in a Test series they could have won 3-0, and also beat the English in England. Ganguly said the results were indicative of their high standard of play in recent years.

"We have beaten everyone over the last six or seven years. We are the only team to have really competed well against them (Australia) both home and away.

"If you look at the record over the last five years we have beaten them, so I think it is going to be a good series.
"We all know they are a tough side but we also have the side to play well."

Australia's Michael Clarke also expected the series to be closely fought, particularly with an Indian batting line-up that includes Sachin Tendulkar and Vanigipurappu Laxman.

Middle-order stalwart Rahul Dravid could also be promoted to open to allow Yuvraj Singh to slot into the middle order.

"India has a fantastic batting lineup, all of whom have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge," Clarke told reporters.
"They're coming off a fantastic win and I think it will set up a great test series."

Australia's biggest selection worry will be the balance of their bowling attack with Mitchell Johnson or Shaun Tait competing for the third pace bowler position if selectors include left-arm wrist spinner Brad Hogg.

"They (Tait and Johnson) have been bowling very well and it will be a tough decision on either one of them," said Clarke.

"The pitch looks a bit damp ... and has a bit of grass at one end and is a bit bare at the other ... but hopefully we will get some sun on it on Christmas Day that will dry it out.

"I think with some sunshine it might make a difference."