Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hayden ready for Harbhajan threat

Matthew Hayden: "Harbhajan is very competitive, especially in his own environment.

Australia fly out to India for a four-Test series on Sunday, and opening batsman Matthew Hayden is geared up for the challenge of tackling the hosts, and especially the threat posed by Harbhajan Singh.

India have been one of Hayden's more favoured opponents - he leads the run-charts against them among the current touring party. Hayden's record in India is equally impressive, and he expected bowlers to vie for his wicket.

"Having played over there, and played well over there, I think I'm going to be the obvious target," Hayden told the Courier Mail. During the 2001 visit, Hayden scored 549 in three Tests, and has since been a regular member of Australia's Test team.

In the same series, Harbhajan took 32 wickets in a gripping contest that India won 2-1. Hayden, one of four members in the squad with Test experience in India, said he would need to step up to the threat. "Harbhajan is very competitive, especially in his own environment," he said. "He's a big threat to our side, no doubt about that. He's skilful and has got some weapons in conditions that will really favour him. My job will be to combat that so, for me, it's a battle I'm really looking forward to."

Relations between the two players were strained during India's recent tour of Australia. Hayden called Harbhajan "an obnoxious little weed" on a radio show in the aftermath of Andrew Symonds alleging the offspinner had racially abused him - charges that were not proved.

Hayden said the "whole dynamic" of the Australian Test side had changed in recent years, with Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist retiring. "To be part of the No.1 cricket side in the world is always a big challenge because we are the benchmark. I expect no mercy from the Indians but that's why I'll enjoy this series. I'll be right in the thick of it. I think this series is tailormade for guys like me."

- CricVille -

Sandesh Kumar

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