'They definitely play a lot better at home'
Hampered by injuries to a few key players, the Australian cricket team took off for India to play a seven-match ODI series with skipper Ricky Ponting conceding that despite their ICC Champions Trophy debacle, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men would be hard to beat in home conditions.
"They will be particularly hard to beat in India, they always are. They definitely play a lot better at home than they do when they travel," Ponting told reporters before the Aussies boarded their flight to India on Monday.
Image: Ricky Ponting
Injury worries for Australia
India crashed out of the Champions Trophy in the group stage itself. Australia, on the other hand, are high on confidence after clinching their second successive Champions Trophy title.
But Ponting said injuries to regular vice-captain Michael Clarke and batsman Callum Ferguson has disturbed the balance of the side and selection would be a major headache during the tour.
While Ferguson is out for a year with a knee injury, Clarke is battling a back problem but may join the squad in the later in the series.
"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.
Image: Ricky Ponting with the ICC Champions Trophy title
Marsh boosts Australian batting
To their relief Shaun Marsh is back in the team after recovering from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since April but it would be quite a task for him to strike form immediately and knock off in-form Tim Paine from the opening slot.
"Paine coming in has had a fair bit of success at the top of the order and given himself every opportunity to remain there," Ponting said.
"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," he added.
Image: Shaun Marsh
'It's great to have a young cricketer around the group'
Asked about the surprise selection of rookie spinner Jon Holland, who is currently in India playing in the Champions League Twenty20, Ponting said he has seen him for only 20 minutes in the nets.
"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," Ponting added.
The 22-year-old is part of the Victoria Bushrangers squad and Ponting hopes that the youngster would come good when presented with an opportunity.
"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," he 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," he added.
Image: Australians celebrate after winning the ICC Champions Trophy