Nielsen plays down Ponting-Bhajji spat

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Australia coach Tim Nielsen plays down a brief exchange of words at Adelaide between Ponting & Harbhajan

Updated: February 25, 2008 09:29 IST
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Australia coach Tim Nielsen on Monday played down the brief exchange of words between Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting in Sunday's match and admitted the home captain's poor form has become a worry for the team.

Ponting, who has been Harbhajan's bunny in the Test series against India, could not hide his glee after his nemesis was out in yesterday's match, which the hosts won by 50 runs.

Ponting appeared to say something to Harbhajan as the Indian left the crease but his coach felt there was not much to make out of it.

"It's been a long summer and there is a bit of feeling between the sides. But it's not different to what has always happened in the 100 years of the game.

"Only because it's between India and Australia, Harbhajan and Ponting and those sort of things and people notice it more," he said.

"I don't think it isn't there in the games against Sri Lanka but they are not noticed as much," Nielsen added.

'Everyone wants more from Ricky'

He, however, was candid enough to admit that the top order was not firing on all cylinders and the captain has not been at his best, to say the least.

"Ricky has set such high standards over the last four or five years that everyone wants to see a bit more on the screen," he said.

"He's not having the season he would like. He hit the ball pretty hard but straight to point. He is showing good form in the nets but is under pressure for not contributing as he would like to," Nielsen said.

"Our top order has missed out. It's not been easy to force the pace," Nielsen added.

'Hit down the ground'

The coach now wants his batsmen to hit more shots down the ground than get caught in the slip cordon for the rest of the series.

"Our batsmen have got caught in the slips and square of the wicket mostly in the series. I would like them to hit down the ground a bit more," said Nielsen, as he answered persistent questions about the failure of his batsmen.

"Our middle order hasn't jelled and that's no secret. Players know it, they are desperate for answers and it's time to refresh and clear up your thinking."

Bowlers in fine shape

Nielsen credited the bowlers of this tournament for making life difficult for the batsmen.

"There are four or five bowlers in this tournament who have bowled well into 140-plus and with the new ball swinging, it has made life difficult for batsmen.

"We have three or four guys who are missing out and we can improve but there's no panic."

Gilchrist's thumb injury not serious

Adam Gilchrist's thumb injury is not too serious and the star Australian stumper-batsman will be fully fit for Friday's match against Sri Lanka, physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said on Monday.

Kountouris confirmed Gilchrist had injured his thumb while keeping in yesterday's match against India but dismissed apprehensions that the retiring cricketer might miss Friday's game.

"Adam did receive a knock on the hand while wicket-keeping last night and while it was quite sore at the time he is expected to be fully fit to take part in Friday's match against Sri Lanka," Kountouris

"No medical investigation has been undertaken and at this stage there is no plan to do so over the course of the week," he said in a Cricket Australia statement.

After Sunday's match, Ricky Ponting and his teammates have returned to home ports and will gather in Melbourne on Thursday.

Tim Nielsen too felt Gilchrist would be part of the playing XI on Friday.

"The thumb is not a brilliant one if it is busted, it was pleasing to see afterwards he was able to catch okay, he didn't seem to favour it too much, he got hit right on the 'drumstick' when it happened which can be a bit fleshy and get a bit bruised," Nielsen was quoted as saying by the
'Australian Associated Press', a news agency here.

"Keepers are a pretty tough breed as well so he'll be right, hopefully over the next couple of days he'll have an x-ray that shows there's no fracture," the coach added.

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