Australia want their own Indian soil
Cricket Australia has come up with a novel plan to improve the team's performance on Indian soil: import some of their own. Their 4-0 thrashing in India last year continued a recent trend of failures in sub-continental conditions and since they last toured Bangladesh in 2006, Australia have played 13 Tests in Asia for only one win, when they defeated Sri Lanka in Galle in 2011.
Their home clean-sweep in the Ashes helped propel Michael Clarke's men back up to No.1 in the Test rankings but staying there will require finding ways to win away from home. To that end, Cricket Australia intends to import soil from India and install Asian-style practice pitches at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, perhaps in the middle of a greyhound track nearby.
Australia's next Test series is in the UAE against Pakistan later this year and against an attack likely to include challenging spinners such as Saeed Ajmal, the batsmen will hardly have an easy time of it. Their struggles in turning conditions in Bangladesh for the World T20 earlier this year only highlighted the issue of handling quality spin.
"Our toughest challenge the last few years has been having success away from home," Clarke told reporters in Brisbane, where the Australians are at a training camp ahead of their tours of Zimbabwe and the UAE later this year. "We didn't play well in India. I don't know, but I am guessing the wickets in Dubai will be similar.
"I am guessing they will prepare wickets that spin and they will have two or three spinners in those teams. We have to find a way to get better. That is one of our great challenges as a Test team."
The Indian-style pitches in Brisbane will not be installed in time to prepare Clarke's men for their series against Pakistan, but Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance Pat Howard hoped they would be ready by the end of the coming summer. An indoor spinning surface is already part of the setup at the National Cricket Centre, but such outdoor pitches would provide a unique opportunity for batsmen ahead of subcontinental tours.
"A third of all our matches are in the subcontinent, so you've got to be able to deal with it," Howard said. "While we do practise here against spin ... we know it's not as real as being there. We're never going to make it exactly the same, but we're going to try to get as close as we can.
"The subcontinent [pitch] idea has been around for a long time and we're very much trying to make this a place where in the middle of winter guys can get themselves ready and prepared. Some players in our system are fantastic at using their feet and playing against spin, but our collective experience has got to get better."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale