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Kumble bats for Fab Four

Harish Kotian in Vadodara | September 23, 2008 22:50 IST
Last Updated: September 24, 2008 08:21 IST

India captain Anil Kumble [Images] gave full backing to the senior batsmen ahead of the Australia [Images] Test series, terming their failure in Sri Lanka [Images] as "one-off".

"I think the Sri Lanka series was a one-off series, where our batters didn't perform. Whenever we have played Australia, every player has stepped up his game; not just as individuals, but as a team, we have played exceptionally well against Australia," Kumble said in Vadodara on Tuesday.

The Fab Four -- Rahul Dravid [Images], VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar [Images] and Sourav Ganguly [Images] -- came in for heavy flak after India lost the Test series 1-2 in Sri Lanka.

With Ganguly being left out of the Irani Trophy, many believe time has come for the remaining three to perform or perish, but Kumble dismissed that theory saying the team is firmly behind them.

"I think when we look around in the dressing room there is no pressure on any individual. These batsmen have had pressure right throughout their careers and they have handled with it wonderfully well. It is one of those bad series they have gone through and I am glad it is over. I am sure all these guys would be looking forward to getting a good score against Australia. I am not worried about them; it is only the media that is talking about it," he stressed.

Kumble said India have run Australia close despite losing the last two series against them. However, this time, he feels that India have the required experience and talent to topple the all-conquering Aussies.

"It is a very important series for all of us and for Indian cricket. We came close, if not winning the series, to equal the series in Australia. And even the last series that Australia played here in 2004, in Chennai we lost out on the last day because of rain. With 200 runs and 10 wickets in hand we certainly backed ourselves to get those runs and the series would have been two-all. In that sense, we have a great opportunity that the experiences and skills we have we will be able to win the series," he said.

Kumble is hoping the batsmen will fire on all cylinders and give the spinners enough time and cover to bowl the Aussies out.

"The spinners will play an important role and we know our strengths. No matter what the surface our spinners have certainly performed and we expect the same. More importantly, whenever we have won at home it has been the batsman who have scored the big runs and that is the key. If we get runs on the board, it will certainly put pressure on the opposition," he said.

The Australian squad for the four-Test series next month is relatively inexperienced; none of their bowlers have played a Test match in India before. Despite that, Kumble is not taking them lightly.

"The Australian squad certainly lacks the experience of playing in India, but they are a highly competitive team. They are the number one Test team in the world. It is a great opportunity; we look it as an opportunity to win the series. The advantage, experience and the skill that we have we will certainly look to back that up with good performances to ensure we get the right result at the end of the series."

Kumble also assured that there would not be a repeat of the controversies that marked India's tour of Australia earlier this year. The four-Test series Down Under saw a number of unsavory incidents including the famous Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds spat.

"I think the game will certainly be played in the right spirit and there is no doubt about that. It would be good competitive, hard cricket that will be played. Any India-Australia game that is played it is good, competitive, hard cricket and everyone is looking forward to it," he said.

The veteran leggie believes that, as always, India start as favourites on home soil, but the key to the series would be taking in the initiative in the first Test itself.

"Any home side is expected to win, no matter what the opposition and we would like to take that as a confidence booster. We are concentrating on our strengths and we would play to our strength. In any series the first match is very important to get the momentum and the upperhand, and we are hoping to grab that in this series," he said.

Meanwhile, India coach Gary Kirsten asked his players to pull up their socks and lift their game for the Australia series.

"I think if we look at our two Test series, we have been a little bit up and down. Our performances have been inconsistent and we are fully aware of that. Each individual knows that he has a responsibility especially in a high profile series like this that he has to lift his game," he said.

The former South Africa [Images] opener is hoping that India can continue to maintain the good record at home.

"The Indian team at home is a tough team to beat and, hopefully, it will be no different when we play Australia. The Australians have come here well-prepared and they are a good competitive side. The Indian team has a huge amount to offer and there is a lot of talent in this team. If we can just fire in all the departments we are going to be a tough team to beat, even tougher to beat at home," he said.

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