Challenge for India is to put the defeats behind them: Sourav

Chennai: Former India captain Sourav Ganguly spoke to The Telegraph on Thursday afternoon, focusing exclusively on the four-Test series beginning in a few hours.

The following are excerpts

Q Hours before the latest series, what are your thoughts?

A One is tempted to say India start favourites, but both teams are in a rebuilding stage, so it's even stevens.

What, in your view, will make the difference?

The way teams bat... The Indians against the Australian pacers and the Australians against the Indian spinners.

How much of an India-Australia series is a mental battle?

Mental battles are part of every series... In India, I suppose, there's a perception that Steve Waugh is still captaining a mighty Australian team... It's a good team today, but that era is over... Perhaps, people also haven't forgotten the 0-4 thrashing the last time we toured Australia.

But is too much made of the mental battles?

Absolutely. We should be talking less.

Besides being whipped by Australia in 2011-12, we lost to England in the last Test series at home. Won't that be sitting heavy on Indian shoulders?

It could, yes... The challenge for India is to put the defeats behind them and move forward... Sportsmen have to quickly come out of failures.

How much of a bearing would the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have on the series?

Both have been great players, good in the subcontinent and very good against spin... The Australians will miss them, but even we're without Rahul Dravid and (VVS) Laxman... It's a cycle, the kind one sees in sport... There will be retirements.

Will the series also be a clash of two captains, one who has been so successful in the past, the other hungry to move up the ladder?

I don't think any one captain will be able to influence the outcome of the series... Cricket is a team sport and the performances have to be collective.

Any advice for Mahendra Singh Dhoni?

I'll just wish him luck.

How has Michael Clarke been shaping up?

He's done well as captain and his own form has been phenomenal. But this will be a tough series and Clarke didn't figure in any of the warm-up matches... It's never easy to straightaway go into a series without a feel of the local conditions. Batting at nets isn't the same.

Given the grassless and bone dry Chepauk wicket, what would be your attack?

Dhoni's thinking is what matters... With so many left-handers in Australia, he could go with both off-spinners (Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin) plus Ravindra Jadeja... I'm not sure about the way Dhoni is thinking, but I'd go with a 2-2 attack and Jadeja as the fifth bowler.

Harbhajan will be playing his 100th Test... You've always backed him...

It's a fabulous achievement and I'm very happy for him... If he plays all four Tests, then he's bound to make an impact.

[Sourav is himself a member of the 100-Test club, having got there at the MCG, on the 2007-08 tour.]

But it's his second comeback of the season. Won't he, then, be under enormous pressure?

That comes with the territory... It's part of sport and he'll have to take it in his stride.

Australia announced their XI on Wednesday itself. Your take...

With Nathan Lyon being the sole specialist, Australia are a spinner short.

The trump card for India...

It's difficult to name one player. We'll win if we bat well.

And, for Australia?

Lyon, provided he bowls well.

Could this be Sachin Tendulkar's last series?

Depends on Sachin.

The last one... Nobody has forgotten the 2001 series, which India won 2-1 under your captaincy. Twelve years down the line, what are your feelings?

It was a terrific series... The quality of cricket was very high, which is why people still talk about it... It remains an important part of my career, but I don't watch the recordings every now and then.

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