Melbourne, Sept.13 : Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has warned Australia's rookie spinners that they can expect a baptism by fire at the hands of Indian batsmen during next month's Border-Gavaskar series.
"We were always aware when we played Australia at home that Shane Warne was the main threat, and now that he is not there, it is obviously good for us," The Age quoted Harbhajan, as saying.
"Warne and Stuart MacGill have both been great spin bowlers. There are no spinners in Australia of the quality of Warne and MacGill now, and I'm sure our batsmen, who are the best players of spin in the world, are going to have fun with this challenge. We are not worried about whoever comes. I'm sure our batsmen will be OK," Bhajji added.
The Australians are bringing four uncapped bowlers, and a frontline attack with no Test experience in India.
According to Harbhajan, the Indians could exploit the relative inexperience of Australia's junior squad members.
"If you compare the team that Steve Waugh came with to now, it is obviously a lot different. It is obviously a big advantage to us that players like Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Warne and Jason Gillespie are not around this time. All of those guys have done well here in the past," he said.
"The last time they were here they beat us, but I genuinely think that if we play to the level we're capable of, we can defeat them. We know that whoever Australia pick, they will be a good team, whether Shane Warne is playing or not. They are still the No. 1-ranked team in the world, and it is always a challenge to play them. But we think we have a very good chance, playing in our home conditions and with the crowds supporting us," he said.
Harbhajan has proven India's ace in the past two home Test series against Australia. The controversial finger spinner claimed a series-turning 32 wickets, at an average of 17.03, in the three-Test series of 2000-01, and 21 wickets at 24 in the corresponding series four years later.
In the latter series, Harbhajan effectively handcuffed Matthew Hayden by bowling well wide of the off stump, frustrating the batsman who, in the previous series, had hammered India's bowlers for 549 runs at 109.80.
Harbhajan requires just nine wickets to reach 300, and to achieve the feat against his most ardent foe, Australia, would presumably give him great satisfaction.
Harbhajan would not be drawn on Symonds' omission from the Australian touring party, although did suggest the series would be played in a better spirit without the combative all-rounder's presence.
"I don't want to answer (questions about Symonds)," he said.
"I would prefer to look forward. He is obviously a great player and there is no doubt about his ability to change a match. He has done a lot for Australian cricket. I hope he is well, and that he is getting better," Harbhajan said.