John Buchanan's mysterious pre-season boot camp has started with the players donning khakis and being split into groups of six with army rations and survival exercises. The four-day adventure has been planned to challenge the nationally-contracted men and will involve bush tasks in the hinterland of Queensland's Gold and Sunshine coasts.

First stop on the hectic schedule of team building was the Beerwah State Forest, which is an hour's drive north of Brisbane, but it was a temporary break as the unit moved its base in the evening Canungra. The focus of the event, which is staffed by former SAS soliders, is on team building and to ensure the squad is physically and mentally strong in preparation for an important summer that includes the Champions Trophy, the Ashes and the World Cup.

The commando nature of the camp has prompted concerns from several players, including Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, as well as the players' union. "I wasn't sure whether it's going to work," Warne said, "but I think all of us have come here with an open mind to try and get something out of it and try and grab what it's all about as far as teamwork and bonding and all those sort of things."

Although Cricket Australia has insured their 25 contracted players "to the hilt", according to a spokesman, the four days out in the wild are designed to be challenging rather than dangerous. "We've got to be reasonable," Reg Dickason, the team's security expert insisted. "We've got to take them outside their comfort zone but can't be stupid about it. We're dealing with elite athletes and we've got to do the right thing by them."

"There will definitely be methods in John's madness," Dave Gilbert, the New South Wales chief executive, told the BBC. "There'll be specific themes to the trip which will be about helping your team-mate and looking at ways at getting yourself out of difficult spots. It's probably what the team needs at this moment in time.

"They are very well paid. They basically lead an almost rock star existence, stay in five-star hotels and are feted around the world," he said. "To have it tough for a few days won't do them much harm at all." Damien Martyn's entry to the camp was delayed by a day after his wife Annika suffered minor injuries during a horse ride on Tuesday.