SYDNEY: Australia coach Mickey Arthur has set up a training camp for his embattled batsmen ahead of the opening Boxing Day Test against India in Melbourne.
Concerned by Australia’s fallibility against the swinging ball exposed in the team’s seven-run loss to New Zealand, Arthur has put in place a three-day camp next week.
Test captain Michael Clarke will be joined by Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Daniel Christian, Shane Watson and possibly Shaun Marsh in the MCG nets from Tuesday. They will be facing bowling machines that will simulate the deliveries of India fast-bowlers.
Arthur said the camp was designed to sharpen the focus of the top-order.
“We’re going to talk about the Indian bowlers at the camp, we’re going to set up bowling machines a la Ishant Sharma and their other bowlers,” said Arthur. “We’re going to practise against the swinging ball and get our basics right. There’s no major reconstruction of anyone’s technique - it’s about getting our guys thinking about the Test match as a group and honing their skills to get them prepared to play on Boxing Day.”
Watson has endorsed the concept of a batsmen’s get-together to combat swing bowling.
“High-quality swing bowling is a big challenge, especially if the ball is moving late,” he said. “There have been times when we’ve had collapses when the ball is swinging and seaming around.”
Harbhajan backs Ponting
Meanwhile, the under-performing Ponting has received unexpected support from India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who predicted the former Australia captain will make a strong comeback.
“I don’t think Ponting is finished and people are making a big mistake by writing him off,” said Harbhajan. “Guys like Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar know what they’re doing and people should stop questioning them.”
Harbhajan has been involved in several on-field spats with Ponting in the past but said Ponting should be respected for his achievements and needed to be backed if he felt good enough to play at the top level.
“Australian fans shouldn’t pressure him. He’s only one innings away from finding top form.”
Meawhile, India received a big blow when fast-bowler Sharma came off with an injury on the opening day of their two-day game against a Chairman’s XI in Canberra. Sharma was only in his sixth over when he walked off the field.
The rest of India’s bowling line-up was hammered by the Canberra batsmen, with Wes Robinson and Tom Cooper scoring centuries to enable their team to declare on 398 for six.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.