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Suryakumar and Harshal ready for 'cold' Australian welcome: 'There's a few butterflies and lot of excitement'

Despite never playing top-flight cricket in Australia, both players are working hard to perfect their game plans in time for the T20 World Cup

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Suryakumar Yadav was adjudged the Player of the Series against South Africa  •  Associated Press

Suryakumar Yadav was adjudged the Player of the Series against South Africa  •  Associated Press

Suryakumar Yadav and Harshal Patel are among five members of India's T20 World Cup squad who have not played top-flight cricket in Australia. The others are Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Bishnoi and Deepak Hooda.
Suryakumar was in contention to make the trip in December 2020, following a prolific IPL for Mumbai Indians in the UAE, but narrowly missed out. Harshal last played in Australia in 2009, on an India Under-19 tour. Now, as they gear up for India's T20 World Cup campaign, the pair is excited and nervous at the same time.
"I was really looking forward to come here and attend the first practice session," Suryakumar told the BCCI website on Sunday. "Just to get on to the ground, have a walk, have a run and feel how it's like here. The first net session was really amazing.
"Obviously there were few butterflies and a lot of excitement, but at the same time you also have to see how you put yourself in that atmosphere and how you peak at the right time. Yes, there's excitement but it's also important to follow the processes and routines."
The Indian team will play two warm-up games against a Western Australia XI at the WACA ground, the venue of their training sessions, starting Monday. Since arriving on October 6, the 14-member playing squad, along with India's net bowling contingent, had a day off to recuperate and have since held two skill-based training sessions.
Suryakumar, currently No. 2 among T20I batters in the ICC rankings, wants to start "a little slow." Foremost on his checklist is adjusting to the pace and bounce and adapting to ground dimensions significantly bigger than what he's used to in India.
Suryakumar is coming off a prolific home season and the Asia Cup. In the home T20I series against South Africa, he was the highest run-scorer across both sides, hitting 119 runs in three innings.
"I just wanted to see what the pace of the wicket [is] and bounce, so I'm starting a little slow," he said about playing in Australia. "Ground dimensions, people say grounds are very big, so it's important to ready your game plan [accordingly], how you're going to score runs, all those things are important. There's cold breeze here, but otherwise conditions are mostly like in India. I'm really looking forward to it."
Unlike Suryakumar, who featured in last year's T20 World Cup, this will be Harshal's first such tournament. The next two weeks will be crucial for Harshal, given he's just recovered from a rib injury that kept him out of action for six weeks. His returns during the recent T20I series against Australia weren't prolific, but the team management isn't worried yet.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo in August, Harshal had spoken about how the prospect of playing on bigger grounds had got him to work on subtle changes in the length of his slower variations.
"I've explored a little bit in terms of the lengths I can bowl with the slower ball," he had said. "Usually when I bowl the slower balls, it's mainly fuller or at the good length. But now I've started bowling more shorter slower balls which are working out very well for me."
After two training sessions in Australia, Harshal believes it's important to rev up slowly. "It's obviously quite cold," he said. "We're slowly acclimatising. The atmosphere is amazing with the team and we're looking forward to building up to the first game [against Pakistan in Melbourne on October 23]. In these two weeks, the idea is to acclimatise to the weather and skill-wise, adapt quickly and by the time our first game comes around we should be in our peak physical and mental condition."
After the Perth leg, India play two warm-up games against Australia (October 17) and New Zealand (October 19) in Brisbane, before flying to Melbourne for their tournament opener against Pakistan. The other teams in India's Super 12 group include South Africa, Bangladesh and two qualifiers.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo