'Good to get under pressure before Tests' - Khawaja
After Australia followed-on, on the third and final day of their last practice match before the Chennai Test, middle-order batsman Usman Khawaja said there were benefits of having to deal with pressure in game scenarios. India A's spinners, however, maintained they had struck a few blows on Australian confidence going into the Test starting Friday.
Khawaja, 30 not out in the second innings, said his team was, "as ready as we will be" for the Chennai Test. The pressure exerted by the India A spinners, he said, could lead to benefits rather than anxiety. "It's good to get out there and put ourselves under pressure in a good game scenario. You can bat in the nets as much as you want, but it's not the same."
The Australian batsmen he said "took a lot" out of their first innings performance, "which is probably why in the second innings you saw us bat better." Once again the openers Shane Watson and Ed Cowan, "set it up and then I think we batted pretty well throughout the second innings."
The match ended with Australia at 195 for 3 off 55 second-innings overs. India A fielded a second string of spinners, left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhurv from Gujarat and offspinner Jalaj Saxena from Madhya Pradesh.
The two turned up to speak on behalf of their team at the end of the game. Just like Manoj Tiwary had done on Sunday evening, they identified what they saw as holes in Australia's batting.
Dhurv said, "They don't play spinners too well which benefited us…their primary deficiency was defence. At times, they also failed to judge the speed of the deliveries."
The Australians, he said, had been asked to follow-on because India A had wanted to push for a win and the batsmen shut shop once Watson was run-out. "In the first innings they had tried to attack us but in the second they didn't. After Watson's run out, they went in to a defensive mode. I don't think they were trying to get on top of us. We thought they were only trying to save the game."
Saxena stepped in saying that India A had played its part in the practice match. "We played like one unit, as a team, like we had planned. We gave our best and wanted to put them under the maximum pressure, so they go into the Test series low on confidence. We didn't want them to get any confidence and for that we played our best."
Whether this can translate into an on-field impact in the Chennai Test depends, Dhurv said, on how early the Indians took control of the series.
"Everything depends on how the Indian team plays in the first few matches. If India win the first one or two matches, then it will be very difficult for them to come back. Let's see how things go when the Test series starts."
The way Khawaja saw it, though the Australians had put up, "quite a few good performances this game."
The three Australian spinners in the game would not include themselves on that list, but Khawaja said that focusing too much on the demands of Indian wickets was missing the point.
"We've actually said that spin plays a big part in India but it's not the only thing that plays a big part in India," he said. "We've seen that pace can be effective as spin out here. And our bowlers proved that in the last few tour matches so we'll have to wait and see what happens."
He was asked whether Australia was "ready to face three spinners on a rank turner?" His reply gently tried to put the attention on the home side, "If you go out that way, the spinners have a lot of pressure on them too. If there is a turning wicket they are expected to take wickets and if they don't then it's a different game, but that's Test match cricket. You're in India - the ball turns, you get reverse swing that's a part of it."
Outside Watson and Cowan, despite Australia's nervy batting performance in the practice match, Khawaja said the central idea behind Australia's batting approach needed to be positivity. "You have to be positive no matter where you are in Australia, South Africa or India. If you're not trying to score runs, you might as well not be in the middle... you've just got to find your own way to do it."
The starting point of Australia's positivity as a batting unit comes from its opener David Warner currently trying to recover from a fractured thumb. Khawaja said that he was confident that Warner would be ready for the Test. "David has been hitting a lot in the last couple of days and I think he'll be alright. We'll find out in the next few days what happens. It just depends on what is a good balance for the team."