What’s the story?
Disconcerted by the nature of pitches served up in warm-up matches during their preceding tours to the subcontinent, Australia will train at the ICC Academy in Dubai before flying into India for a 4-Test series next month. Their record in Asia makes for abysmal reading – nine consecutive Test losses with three successive series whitewashes. The last time they won a Test match in India was during the 2004 series.
The ICC Academy in Dubai holds as many as thirty pitches made from different types of soil found across the globe. Although Australia’s batsmen might not have accomplished spinners bowling at them, the plan gives them an opportunity to hone their techniques on turning tracks.
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Parallels can be drawn between Australia’s move to get acclimatised to Indian conditions beforehand and Pakistan’s earnest preparation ahead of their England tour (in which they drew the Test series 2-2) in 2016. Even though Misbah-ul-Haq’s side focused on improving their fitness in a gruelling boot-camp and trained on green-tinged surfaces at home, the intentions are fairly similar.
Australia will begin their four-Test series in India on February 23rd at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. The remaining three Tests are scheduled to be held at Bengaluru, Ranchi and Dharamsala.
Heart of the matter
“India is not going to be the same everywhere. What they can do in Dubai is do a lot of different preparation with different types of pitches. The ICC have done a really good job where they'll have different pitches of the cities. So it's not just spin pitches, there are different types. But it's all about a mindset. We cannot copy what we are going to get. It's all about the mindset that we're going to adapt. We can't get practice against (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja either”, Pat Howard was quoted as saying to Fairfax Media.
Cricket Australia's executive general manager of team performance added, “I'm not saying (India) has been the thing that we've been necessarily focused on but it's somewhere Australia hasn't had a lot of success. (There have been) two successful tours in that time (in 1969 and 2004) and we know that we have to take it very very seriously and dot all the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s because we haven't been as good over there as we'd like to be. We're trying to do no stone left unturned.”
Having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the home series against Pakistan, Australia will be eager to utilise the third Test in Sydney as a dress rehearsal for the India tour. On an SCG pitch which is expected to assist spin, they have brought in left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe to partner Nathan Lyon. Although conditions could be slightly different than what is usually seen in the subcontinent, this will be their last Test before stepping onto Indian shores.
Considering India’s dominant form and Australia’s woeful recent record in Asia, Steven Smith’s team will truly be up against it. Even though their chances in this series remain rather bleak, the pro-active Cricket Australia has at least started taking major steps to provide the players with a decent amount of preparation. In an era wherein cricketers often enter into away tours undercooked, the other boards certainly need to make similar decisions.Published 02 Jan 2017, 15:20 IST