Lookalike spinners, tailor-made pitches and long practice sessions at Alur, the visiting Australians are leaving no stone unturned in preparing for the upcoming four-match Test series with India that they consider as the “final summit” for Pat Cummins’ side.
The Australians are expecting India to play to their strength at home and lay out spin-friendly tracks and that is the reason they have devised a special strategy to meet the challenge. They have eschewed playing tour matches to prepare for the Test series and instead have decided to train at Bengaluru before travelling to Nagpur, which will host the first Test from February 9-13.
They have also avoided training at any of the venues that will host the four Tests — New Delhi, Dharamsala and Ahmedabad being the other three — and have gone down south to train at a facility which is an hour’s drive from Bengaluru.
And aiding them in getting ready for the tough battles ahead is a spinner who has an uncanny resemblance to India star Ravichandran Ashwin, according to a report by www.cricket.com.au.
The presence of the Ashwin duplicate, whom the Australian team management picked up after noticing the extreme resemblance to Ashwin’s action, was quite noticeable during their first training session at the mini-camp in Alur on Thursday and is being proactively reported back home as a secret strategy to tackle India’s star off-spinner Ashwin.
According to the report, the Ashwin duplicate, Maheesh Pithiya, is a 21-year-old from Junagadh, Gujarat, and made his first-class debut for Baroda in December. His bowling action has a strong resemblance to Ashwin, “who will be one of the biggest bowling threats to the Aussies during the four-Test series beginning in Nagpur next week”.
This is precisely the reason Australia’s support staff, after being seen footage of the spinner via social media, have flown the 21-year-old into their base in Bangalore for a four-day training camp at the KSCA Ground in Alur.
On-demand from the Aussies, the KSCA has also provided them with three pitches that will provide excessive spin from day one. On Thursday, they practised on the central pitch and it was turning square by the end of the day.
“Three pitches in the middle of the main ground in Alur have been prepared by the local Karnataka cricket association, with each taking more turn as their first training day wore on. Assistant coach Daniel Vettori’s left-arm spinning throwdowns were particularly volatile by mid-afternoon,” reported cricket.com.au.
The Australian think tank has sought such tracks to mimic what they expect to face at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, which has a big reputation for being spin-friendly.
Two weeks ago, a Ranji Trophy game at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, set to host its first Test in more than five years next week, saw Gujarat bowled out in the fourth innings for 54 while chasing only 72. Nine wickets fell to left-arm orthodox spin, the report said.
The Aussies are gearing up for that battle and with the net bowlers including Pithiya bowling “tirelessly through and virtually without break through the day”. Their main batters Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head batted for long sessions in the morning and all three were troubled by Pithiya.
While no spinner in the world can perfectly mimic the challenge Ashwin will pose in this series, facing Pithiya over the coming days will at least help the Australians come to terms with the visual cues of the world’s top-ranked Test spin bowler, said the report.
The Aussies also faced Shashank Mehrotra, a left-arm spinner who plays first-class cricket for Hyderabad, and throw-down specialist Khaleel Shariff. Though they did not have a look-alike of Ravindra Jadeja, there was a bevvy of local left-arm orthodox bowlers brought in to help an Australian batting group to get ready for the Indian spinners.