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Handscomb working on back-foot game to master spin

Peter Handscomb has mixed up his footwork while facing spin and that should come as an encouraging sign for Australia Getty Images

Peter Handscomb's Test career is only three matches old, but he has already achieved a feat matched by few Australians. By scoring 54 on debut in Adelaide, 105 at the Gabba and 54 at the MCG, Handscomb became one of only five men to make a 50-plus score in each of his first three Tests for Australia. The only others to have done so are Bill Brown, Frank Iredale, Michael Bevan and Herbie Collins - Collins, in fact, did so in his fourth Test, too.

It is testament not only to Handscomb's skill as a batsman - although he has shown plenty of that since being handed his baggy green less than six weeks ago - but also to his temperament. At the crease as a Test batsman, Handscomb has appeared as unflustered as if he was playing a club game for St Kilda, a sign of the mental strength that others have observed in Handscomb since his teenage years.

But beyond this home summer - and whether or not Handscomb matches Collins' Australia record by making a 50-plus score in his fourth straight Test from debut - Australia hope that Handscomb can achieve another feat that few of his countrymen have managed. At least, few in recent years. That goal is to master the Indian conditions when Australia embark on a Test tour there next month, their first since being crushed 0-4 in 2013.

That trip is perhaps best remembered for the homework saga and the off-field unravelling of Australia's fracturing squad, but the off-field chaos was born of on-field failures. On the first day of the series, in Chennai, Michael Clarke went to stumps on 103. It was the only century any Australia batsman would make all series. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were utterly dominant, and 65 of the 79 wickets Australia lost went to spin.

Australia will embark on this year's tour with a fresh batting line-up - it is likely that of the top six, only Steven Smith and David Warner will have played Test cricket in India - so there will be a significant learning curve for several of the new batsmen. However, one encouraging sign has been the way that Handscomb has handled spin against Pakistan, mixing up his footwork between playing back and advancing.

"That's something I did growing up," Handscomb said in Sydney, ahead of the third Test against Pakistan. "My dad used to take me down to the local nets or the local indoor, and get on the bowling machine and pretty much send the ball down and I had to run at everything, and find a way to deal with it, whether it was kick it away or defend or attack it, you just find your own way.

"But, since being in India a couple of times, and I've been to Sri Lanka once as well, I've watched how they play over there, and they play a lot off the back foot as well. I've been doing a fair bit of work trying to emulate that, guys like Ajinkya Rahane, who's an amazing player of spin."

Handscomb toured India with Australia A in 2015 and was on the verge of a century when he was stumped off Amit Mishra for 91. A pair of ducks followed in his next two innings, so he knows he has much to learn about playing on subcontinental surfaces and, to that end, he is likely to alternate his BBL commitments when the Pakistan Test series ends, with training on a specially prepared spinning pitch at the MCG.

"I'll probably try and get a wicket at the MCG that can turn, so I can get a little bit of practice there before heading over," he said. "We've done that a couple of times, we actually did it before we came up to the SCG in a Shield game, and it's all about training hard so that when you go out into the middle, it's easier than when you were training. It's never easy out in the middle, but it makes it a little bit better."

One thing Handscomb will shy away from is the training method of batting without pads against spinners, which has previously been used in Asia by Michael Clarke, who wanted to ensure his footwork was good and that he was always laying bat on ball.

"I definitely wear pads. The ball hurts," Handscomb said. "I guess I'll try to work on my sweep shot, make sure I'm hitting pretty much every ball out of the middle there. But also, I'll have a session where I try to hit everything on the off side, and then I'll have a session where I try to hit everything on the leg side, and just find ways to manipulate the ball."

For the time being, in familiar home conditions, Handscomb seems to be having little trouble hitting the ball where he wants.