Melbourne, Dec 24 (UNI) Radiating confidence ahead of the crucial Boxing Day Test, former India captain Saurav Ganguly has said that Team India has grown stronger since their last tour Down Under in 2003.
''The last time we came to Australia in 2003 we had a weaker bowling attack and a few injuries," the 'Prince of Kolkata' said.
''We have a better bowling attack this time and with (Mahendra) Dhoni coming in at number seven we have a deeper batting lineup.
''Last time we came as underdogs and performed really well. It is the same this time but what happened in 2003 will have no bearing, it is what we do in these Test matches.'' Ganguly said the recent performances were indicative of their improved standard of play.
''We have beaten everyone over the last six or seven years.
We are the only team to have really competed well against them (Australia) both home and away. If you look at the record over the last five years we have beaten them, so I think it is going to be a good series.
''We all know they are a tough side but we also have the side to play well.
''We've won in every country over the last six to seven years and most of the boys in the team have the experience of winning abroad.
They know what it takes - putting up runs and taking wickets. I think even the Australians realise - and I'm a friends with a few of them - that it's India that are the only one to have competed with them in the last six years. From that point of view, it makes the series interesting.'' Dismissing apprehensions that the Indian batsmen might struggle on bouncy pitches, Ganguly said,''International cricket is the same everywhere - fast bowlers hurry you up and get extra bounce.'' ''It's not the first time that we'll be facing someone bowling at 90mph. We just played Shoaib [Akhtar], who's probably the fastest bowler in the world. It will help us in this series.
[Brett] Lee's doing well, he's bowled well. But I think we'll do well against him.
''I heard the wicket [pitch] has slowed down in Melbourne but they will still be carry for the seamers. Sydney and Adelaide will spin and Perth will bounce more. Most of these players have been around for 12 to 13 years and have fantastic records. So they'll expect bounce and pace. We have to learn to adapt.'' Speaking on the weaknesses in the Australian side, the combative ex-skipper said, ''They'll obviously miss [Glenn] McGrath and [Shane] Warne because you're looking at 1200 wickets between them.
''But I'm sure people like [Mitchell] Johnson, [Stuart] Clark, [Brad] Hogg are looking forward to Test cricket. They have the ability and I'm sure they'll be good as well.'' Aussie middle-order batsman Michael Clarke echoed Ganguly, ''India has a fantastic batting lineup, all of whom have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge.
''They're coming off a fantastic win and I think it will set up a great test series.'' Ganguly, who has been one of the most successful Test captains from India, will play his 100th Test on Boxing Day.