Brisbane, Sep 25 (UNI) With last summer's racial controversies and other dramas between India and Australia still fresh in the players' minds, former all-rounder Ajit Agarkar believes tensions could once again bubble to the surface in a fierce battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy starting on October 9.
''It is going to be fierce and competitive . . . there might be some stages where you are just about on the line,'' Agarkar, training here with his Kolkata IPL franchise, predicted.
''The Indians who have been involved in the last few series against Australia feel that it is bigger than the India-Pakistan series.'' Agarkar, 30, is Sachin Tendulkar's best mate and has locked horns with the Australians in nine Tests and 21 one-day internationals.
He insists India deserve to be the bookmakers' favourites for this series as the new-look Australian side is inexperienced in arduous Indian conditions.
Only three of Australia's likely starting XI for the first Test - Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke - have played Test matches in India along with squad member Simon Katich.
''Australia doesn't look on paper to be as experienced in Indian conditions as they normally are when they tour,'' Agarkar said.
''The side that Australia has, not a lot of batsmen or bowlers have actually played Test cricket in India. You would say India are favourites.'' Agarkar believes temperamental Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh has been smart by stating that he wants to clean up his act and ditch his bad boy image.
''Maybe Harbhajan has been carrying that controversial tag for too long so wants to get rid of that,'' he said. ''He wouldn't want to get into as many controversies as he has and probably wants to concentrate on his cricket.'' UNI XC CS AB RK1110