Saqlain helps Hauritz prepare for The Oval
Australia have drafted in Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistan and Surrey offspinner, to work with Nathan Hauritz in the build-up to the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval. Saqlain attended Australia's training session at The Oval on Monday where he is understood to have imparted advice on local conditions and the art of slow bowling.
"We just had an informal chat," Saqlain told Cricinfo. "It was all about how to make different strategies work against different players. The Oval wicket hasn't really changed in character since the time I played here. It is still a pretty good pitch, it looks bare but true, and if you bowl well on it you're sure to get your rewards."
Saqlain was recently recruited on a short-term basis to work with New Zealand's spinners ahead of their tour of Sri Lanka, and has previously expressed an interest in working with first-class and international teams in a consultancy capacity. He is widely credited with developing and perfecting the doosra; a delivery Hauritz has experimented with in the nets in recent seasons.
"I showed him my attempt at a doosra," Hauritz told Cricket Australia TV. "He liked it, but he said I needed a lot of work on it. We're definitely going to keep in touch and do more work. Ever since I was a young spin bowler Saqlain was my idol. He was the guy to put off-spin bowling on the map. We got the opportunity today and it was fantatastic.
"I guess we spoke more about the philosophy of spin bowling and trying to work out different ways to deceive batsmen. There wasn't a lot of technical work spoken about. Obviously he showed me different grips holding the ball, and how he bowled the doosra. It was all very interesting. It was great to speak to someone who is so passionate about spin bowling. As a spinner you worry about too many technical things. I guess you're a little screwed up in the head. But if the belief is there, everythng else will follow."
Hauritz is considered the front-runner for Australia's final bowling berth in the Ashes decider, with Clive Stephens, Surrey's operations director, predicting turn for the last two days of the Test. Hauritz claimed wickets with successive deliveries during a practice match against England Lions in Canterbury on Sunday, and is showing few ill-effects from the finger dislocation he suffered at Lord's last month.
Saqlain was confident Hauritz was more than ready to withdstand the challenge of an Ashes decider. "He's a very talented guy," Saqlain said. "He's been working hard. I saw him on TV and today at the ground. He's got everything up his sleeve. I was pleased to see him and I am wishing he will do well for his country in the last Test.
"We just chatted about the tactics and the plans against batsmen. You learn each and every day. If you speak to Warne, Murali or even Glenn McGrath they will say they are learning. Life is all about that. You learn each and every session, each and every day. He's a very talented guy, he has everything. He is working hard and he will do a lot for the country."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo