Dec 24, 2007 at 02:37pm IST

Aussies fear lack of home advantage against India

Melbourne: Australia's paceman Stuart Clark is the latest to express doubts over the efficacy of playing the first Test against India in Melbourne.

Clark fears Australia may have forfeited a degree of home-ground advantage and he wants the administrators to schedule future series-openers in Brisbane or Perth where pitches would suit their fast bowlers.

Clark said he and his fast-bowling colleagues would enter the Boxing Day Test with "little expectation" of assistance from the MCG wicket, which curator Tony Ware believes will favour spin as the match progresses.

ADVANTAGE FORFEITED: Clark feels India's batting line-up will be more aggressive in its pursuit of the Australian attack.

To accentuate Australia's advantage, Clark believes Test series openers should be played on bouncier wickets, such as the Gabba or the WACA ground, the likes of which are virtually non-existent in most corners of the cricketing globe.

"That way, we could really ram home our advantage," Clark said. "The conditions in Brisbane and Perth are so different to what you find in the subcontinent, and it would obviously be ideal from our perspective to play the first Test of series in places like that.

"Of course, that's easier said than done with the crammed schedules these days and the Future Tours Programme to comply with. But from the team's perspective, it would be great if we were able to start series against the Indians and the Sri Lankas of world cricket at grounds like Brisbane and Perth and get the full advantage of our unique pitch conditions."

Much has been made of the Indians' limited preparation in Australia, but the fact remains that the tourists have played non-stop cricket since the Twenty20 World Cup in September and almost all on flat wickets.

Indeed, the Indians are only a fortnight removed from closing out a home Test series victory over Pakistan; a result achieved on a succession of low, slow surfaces.

Of the nine Tests India have played in 2007, eight have been on the slower wickets of Bangladesh, England and India, while the other was played at the Newlands Ground - one of the slowest pitches in South Africa.

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"The Indians don't get a lot of exposure to our bouncier surfaces and you'd probably say Melbourne isn't one of those," Clark said. "I'm not going into the match with any expectations for a fast bowler-friendly wicket, but we'll just roll up on the day and see what we're presented with.

"We'll be playing the third Test in Perth and it will be interesting to see how that goes. We're all well aware that scheduling these days isn't a simple matter, but I suppose you'd just like to get that real home-ground advantage if it was possible."

Clark believes the challenge of bowling to an Indian top-order likely to include Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly will be the greatest he has faced. Clark's 11-Test career to date has involved contests with South Africa, Bangladesh, England and Sri Lanka, and the right-armer feels India's batting line-up will be more aggressive in its pursuit of the Australian attack.

"There has been a fair bit of talk from them about being aggressive, and that's fine by us," Clark said. "We are more than capable of fighting fire with fire. It's going to be a great challenge for everyone, because they have some truly great players in their line-up and, in Sachin, one of the all-time greats.

"We've been doing our homework on them. There's been quite a lot of video analyses and today we had our first big discussion on the plans we have for them, and different ideas. We can't wait to get out there."

With Brad Hogg almost certain to play as a specialist spinner the final bowling slot is likely to be either Mitchell Johnson or Shaun Tait.

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