There was a worrying sense of deja vu when Australia’s Test squad arrived at KSCA Ground in Alur on Thursday morning.
The three practice wickets they were presented with looked more akin to the Gabba than the spinning decks of Nagpur and Ahmedabad, with a healthy layer of grass at each end.
Australia had been sabotaged in Sri Lanka last year, served up seaming practice wickets ahead of a series played entirely on spinning decks, but the BCCI had assured Cricket Australia it wouldn’t be the same story in Bengaluru this week.
For a moment, the Aussies would have wondered whether they had been duped yet again, but any lingering fears were allayed once the training session got underway and the SG balls started turning.
“The facilities were fantastic,” Australian Test captain Pat Cummins told foxsports.com.au.
“They were really good wickets … it’s given us a good chance to have some really good prep.”
Watch Australia’s Tour of India. Every Test & ODI live & ad-break free during play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Australia has no warm-up matches scheduled ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, instead undergoing a specialised four-day training camp in Bengaluru where they can concentrate on individual skills and prepare for India’s spinning minefields in a controlled environment.
In preparation for facing Indian tweakers Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, Australia’s batters have relied on Ashton Agar and spin coach Daniel Vettori, both accomplished left-arm orthodox bowlers, to replicate their bowling action.
But to acquaint themselves with the right-arm off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin, the Aussies needed to call in reinforcements.
As reported by cricket.com.au, 21-year-old spinner Mahesh Pithiya was flown to Bangalore to serve as one of Australia’s net bowlers this week, troubling the likes of Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head on Thursday.
Pithiya, who made his first-class debut for Baroda in December, is renowned for having an uncannily similar bowling action to Ashwin. According to Cricbuzz, Australia’s coaching staff requested Pithiya’s services after watching clips of his bowling action on Instagram.
The Australian camp is cautious of fatigue, wanting to ensure the squad isn’t burnt out before the fourth Test in Ahmedabad. David Warner, who confessed to feeling exhausted after his recent Big Bash League cameo, didn’t train on Thursday, opting instead to recuperate in the Bangalore hotel.
“We value freshness at the back end of the tour,” Australian coach Andrew McDonald told reporters last week.
“We’ve seen teams go there before and spend a lot of energy at the front end.
“We feel as though we get a bit more control in Bangalore to replicate what we’re going to come up against and then we go into Nagpur fresh.
“Hopefully it pays dividends at the back end.”
Australia’s experienced players have been entrusted with preparing for the first Test in Nagpur, which gets underway on Thursday, however they deem fit. Whether they wanted to hit balls in the nets for hours or conserve their energy, they were provided with the necessary resources.
“It was very individualised, some guys hit for hours and hours, others are taking it pretty easy,” Cummins explained.
“It’s been a busy few weeks for some guys with BBL, so very individualised, but some very good training.
“Each player might do things a little bit differently. There’s no cookie-cutter approach, and that’s a good thing. That’s what we want.
“The team’s really humming along at the moment, the players are absolute pros. Sometimes I feel like I can step back and it just kind of runs itself, and I don’t feel like I need to intervene or be an enforcer when things are going well, like they have been.”
The first Test between India and Australia gets underway at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday, with the first ball scheduled for 3pm AEDT.
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be broadcast exclusively on Foxtel and streaming platform Kayo Sports, which will also carry a Hindi feed for every match on the tour.
Originally published as Australian camp hires Ravichandran Ashwin ‘impersonator’ to prepare for India Test series