Sachin still the biggest challenge: Lee

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Australian spearhead Brett Lee is bullish about the tourists' chances of defeating India at home as they began preparations for a series.

Updated: September 24, 2008 11:57 IST
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Far from being a controversy-ridden battle, Australian pace spearhead Brett Lee reckons his team's four-Test series against India would go down as a "hallmark of friendship" because players from both the sides have forgotten about past rows.

The Indian and Australian players have been involved in several on-field and off-field spats in the recent past with Andrew Symonds-Harbhajan Singh race row being the ugliest face-off.

But Lee said the Indian Premier League offered them a good opportunity to clear the air and forge friendships.

"In the IPL the players forged good bonds and the upcoming series will be a new leaf and a new page in the history of both countries. I hope it will be a hallmark of friendship and would help world cricket," Lee told reporters on Tuesday.

"I am not worried about what had happened in the past but we look to play here in the spirit of the game," he added.

The Australians are in the city for a couple of practice matches before the official series gets underway in Bangalore from October 9.

The tearaway pacer, who enjoys sizeable fan following in India due to his music and Bollywood aspirations, said instead of acrimony it would be the competitiveness of the series that would keep the fans engrossed.

The 31-year-old speedster, who is yet to make his Test debut in India, felt the Australians, despite being considered underdogs, would not be easy to beat for the hosts.

"You may look any way you like, underdogs or not the favourites but we are a confident lot and a strong team. We have played good cricket here and will do so this time too. We are looking forward to the challenge," Lee said.

When asked about the relative inexperience of the Aussies, Lee retorted, "We have done very well here and know about the strengths and weaknesses. Yes some big names might be missing. Players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist are not there but the youngsters are also good."

"They might not have experience of playing Test cricket but they have done well in the domestic cricket in Australia . We have very good players like Brad Haddin and others.

"At certain point of time you have to make a debut. I feel India is the best place to play your first Test. It is a wonderful place and a great challenge too," he added.

Lee, however, admitted that the inexperience of the bowling attack would add to the pressure on him as he prepares for his India Test debut.

"Yes, there will be great lot of pressure on me. But I enjoy the pressure. I am looking forward to the challenge. We have our task cut out," he said.

"I might not have played a Test here but have the experience of playing in twenty20 and one-day matches," he added.

Lee said having Greg Chappell as assistant coach to Tim Nielson would be of great help for the Australians in their quest to topple the Indians on home turf.

"He is experienced and owns a great personal record. He is second to none. We are looking up to him and he is a key member of our team," said Lee.

Looking back at the 2004 Test series, during which he was part of touring side but could not make the final XI, Lee said, "I missed that series but was trying hard. Perhaps I was not in best of my form. I am looking forward to the challenge now.

Lee lamented Andrew Symonds' absence from the squad after the feisty all-rounder was sacked for indiscipline.

"He is a great player. At any given point of time every one might love to have him in the team. Unfortunately, he is not here but he knows what he has to do to make a comeback.

"Understandably, if we look at the positives his absence is an opportunity for Shane Watson. His experience of playing in IPL here might help him grab the all-rounder's slot in the team," Lee said.

Lee said that of all the Indian batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman remained the toughest to bowl to, especially in their own backyard.

"There is no other player like Sachin in the world. It has always been a challenge to bowl to Indian batsmen and now too I am looking forward to it. I feel it will be a tough series," he said.

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