Monday, October 19, 2009

Ponting ponders Australia's batting options

Australia have embarked on their one-day tour of India uncertain of their preferred batting line-up with injuries to Michael Clarke and Callum Ferguson forcing adjustments to their Champions Trophy-winning side. It has left Ricky Ponting and the selectors with several choices ahead of the seven-match series, which starts on Sunday.

Ferguson is sidelined for up to a year with a serious knee injury picked up in the final against New Zealand, while Clarke could join the squad late in the series if his back soreness eases. Shaun Marsh is in the 15-man group but faces a challenge to bump the in-form Tim Paine from the opening spot, while regular 12th man Adam Voges might finally get a run of opportunities.

"The selectors and myself are going to have a bit of thinking to do over the next few days as to what we do with the batting line-up," Ponting said at Sydney Airport on Monday as he prepared to fly out to India. "Paine coming in has had a fair bit of success at the top of the order and given himself every opportunity to remain there.

"You go back six or seven months, then Shaun was one of the up-and-coming batsmen in our Australian team and someone who has got a very good record at the top of the order for us, so we've got some tough decisions to make there. But whichever way we go there we know we've got very good depth in our batting with someone like Shaun coming back in, so hopefully we get it right on the morning of the first game."

Marsh hasn't played for Australia since April, when he suffered a hamstring injury during the one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE. At least Ponting is familiar with Marsh - not so the new spinner in Australia's squad. Jon Holland, the Victorian left-armer, was a surprise selection and he'll be doing well if Ponting even recognises him when the group gathers in India.

"I've seen 20 minutes of him bowling in the nets leading up to the Boxing Day Test last year, that's as much as I've seen of Jon," Ponting said. "He gets good raps from all the other Victorian guys ... everyone believes he's got a good future. It's great to have a young cricketer around the group, especially a young spinner making a tour of India.''

Holland, 22, is already in India, where he has played every match for Victoria in the Champions League Twenty20. There's no guarantee Holland will play in the ODI series, with Nathan Hauritz firmly entrenched as the leading spinner, but Ponting hopes he will at least gain important experience for the future.

"You can't help but learn when you get over there and bowl in those conditions and bowl to better players like Jon will be doing," Ponting said. "He'll be bowling to all the Australian batsmen over the next few weeks and he might get an opportunity to bowl to some very good players of spin in the Indian batsmen, so some great opportunities lie ahead for Jon. I'm looking forward to spending some time with him over the next few weeks."

Australia enter the series in form, thanks to their Champions Trophy triumph, but Ponting said little could be read into that tournament in South Africa, where India failed to progress past the group stage. "They will be particularly hard to beat in India, they always are," Ponting said. "They definitely play a lot better at home than they do when they travel."

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