Australia undecided on Bollinger - Nielsen
The Australian team management is largely pleased with how Doug Bollinger and Michael Hussey fared in the training session, but the fast bowler is not a sure starter for the first Test that begins on Friday. Bollinger and Hussey joined the team just two days before the Test, after returning from their successful Champions League Twenty20 campaign with Chennai Super Kings in South Africa.
"We just talked about it from the start that Michael and Doug wouldn't be here till a certain stage," Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, said. "When that changed, we pushed it back. Everybody is understanding [of that]. We just let them [Bollinger and Hussey] know upfront that if they are fit, they are more than likely to take their place in the team. We have to make the right decision, not only on their getting a spot, but [make sure] they are physically and mentally and technically right to play.
"So we will have another look at them tomorrow, and make sure they are ready to go."
Nielsen said the uncertainty centered more on Bollinger than Hussey. He was pleased with how the fast bowler had got through his short bowling stint today, but how he performed tomorrow would be the big test. "It's not as if he was sitting on a beach on his bum, he has been playing cricket. He has got some miles in his legs. [However], he certainly hasn't had six-seven-over spells two or three times a day."
Bollinger bowled in the nets for about 20 minutes, and was seen working with the physio. "They are a little bit behind time wise," Nielsen said. "They are in pretty good place today, we will probably know more tomorrow morning. But at this moment, they have had a bat and a bowl today, and at this stage we are pretty positive about them."
Peter George, who played in the tour game against the Board President's XI, could make his Test debut if Bollinger is not picked. Nielsen had positive things to say about the tall fast bowler. "Peter George did a good job in the practice match, especially in the first innings. Admittedly he came on to bowl when we had already taken two or three wickets. So it was a little bit easier for him, and things didn't work out that well from results' point of view in the second innings when they batted nicely.
"The thing we know him about him is that he runs in, he is consistent with his pace, and we like to think he is a bit like McGrath in his action and in the bounce he extracts. He is not an express fast bowler, but he has got enough pace to make the ball bounce off a length. Most importantly he runs in all day to try the right thing for the captain. Given the opportunity he will do a very good job at Test level."
Last year, too, when Australia toured India for a seven-ODI series, they had a similar situation. Brett Lee, Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz joined the team on the eve of an early-morning start. Lee lasted just one match then. "We talked about it right from the start," Nielsen said. "There is no running away from these things. It could have been the captain if he was playing for a Champions League team.
"It's harder and throws a little bit more chaos in the system when somebody has a late injury or somebody is ill late in the last couple of days leading up to the Test. Your plans are set, you have a kind of idea in your head what players are going to play, then somebody gets hurt late... We understand what we had with Doug and Huss [ Hussey]. Yes, this is not ideal preparation, but this is the modern world of cricket.
"They play for different franchises, for different teams, and their countries. That's what we have to deal with. I suppose this is where we've got to earn our money. We have got to make sure that they are as close to their best as possible, come Friday."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo