'India start favourites against depleted Aussies'

Updated on Sep 16, 2008 10:33 AM IST

Almost a month before the start of the series, bookmakers and cricket punters in Melbourne have already picked Anil Kumble's men as favourites against the Australians.

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PTI | By, Melbourne

It is still almost a month to go before the first ball of the much-anticipated India-Australia Test series is bowled but bookmakers and cricket punters in Melbourne have already picked Anil Kumble's men as favourites against the depleted world champions.

The betting markets opened on Monday for the series that starts October 9 after Cricket Australia assured that last week's serial blasts in New Delhi would have no bearing on the scheduled four matches.

India were initially listed at $2.25 by Lasseters Sports before a leading cricket punter put a $6000 bet on the hosts winning the series.

The bet brought the Indians' price down to $2 with Australia placed at $2.65. A drawn series is the least likely result according to the bookmakers, who have listed it at $4.25, 'The Courier Mail' reported.

The reason for the bookies losing faith in the all-conquering Aussie team is the lack of quality spin options in the side and star all-rounder Andrew Symonds being axed for his "gone fishing" misdemeanour.

"There are a lot of question marks over several of the Australia team for this series and it appears punters do not want a bar of them," Lasseters head bookie Gerard Daffy said.

Besides, the bookies feel India have been traditionally tougher to beat at home and Australia's 2004 triumph there was their first in 35 years.

Not to mention the injury worries Australia face in the run-up to series. Symonds' replacement Shane Watson does not have a very good fitness record and opener Matthew Hayden (ankle) and skipper Ricky Ponting (wrist) are also carrying minor niggles.

There are also concerns about pace spearhead Brett Lee's mental state after his bitter marriage breakdown.

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