1st warm-up game: Indians looking to test Australian conditions
Barely four days after a hectic series against the West Indies, India begin their tour of Australia with a two-day warm-up game against CA Chairman's XI in Canberra, on Thursday, with focus on acclimatizing to conditions ahead of the gruelling Test series, beginning later this month.
India are high on confidence after their 2-0 and 4-1 wins in the Test and ODI series against the West Indies and will straightaway get down to their task of getting a feel of Australian conditions, which will be much different from what they had faced at home.
Sniffing India's best chance of beating a weakened and demoralised Australian side in their own backyard, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had stressed upon the importance of acclimatizing to the conditions as fast as possible in the 12 days ahead of first Test, starting in Melbourne on December 26.
The Indian Cricket Board had also sent seven players, including the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman five days in advance to train in Melbourne, to prepare for what will certainly be their last tour of Australia.
The remaining players, including Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher landed in Australia on Tuesday night and straightaway left for Canberra for the first warm-up game on Thursday.
Image: MS Dhoni
We do not want to rush Zaheer too quickly: Fletcher
It is to be seen if India will roll out a star-studded team for the first warm-up match at Manuka Oval, given that there is a three-day game starting, on Monday, against another CA Chairman's XI boasting of Australian players like David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Phil Hughes.
With the tour coming four years after the acrimonious series in 2007-8, Dhoni had indicated that the team management would want to use the 12 days before the first Test as much as possible and in that case he would want to use as many players as possible from his 17-man squad.
One concern though would be not to rush players like pacer Zaheer Khan, on whom the Indian team could rely on heavily in the tour in the bowling department.
From what coach Fletcher had said in Chennai before departing for Australia, Zaheer could be rested for the first game and fielded in the second game, starting on Monday.
"Zaheer has got these two games. It will be preparation for him. We do not want to rush him too quickly. The one three day game there will be important for him before the first Test," Fletcher had said.
Image: Zaheer Khan
Remaining injury-free will be crucial in the Test series: Dhoni
Dhoni had also said that remaining injury-free will be crucial in the Test series, more so after pacers Praveen Kumar and Varun Aaron have been ruled out due to injuries after being named in the touring squad.
"We had enough time for some preparation also before the start of the first Test. Looking good as of now. Hopefully we do not have too many injuries before the start of the Test series," he had said, before team's departure.
Most of the batsmen are among runs in the Test and ODI series against the West Indies at home with the likes of Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli fresh from impressive show in the limited-overs format.
Tendulkar, who is just one short of a historic 100 international tons, was below-par against the West Indies considering the high standards he sets for himself and he will be eager to knock down some runs before he gets into the groove for Test series.
The same is the case for Laxman, who was not in his best form against the West Indies.
Dravid, who was the standout performer against the West Indies, and England before that, will want to straightaway be in the thick of things.
Image: Virender Sehwag with Sachin Tendulkar
Ishant hoping to torment the Aussies again
In the bowling department, Ishant Sharma is raring to go for the first warm-up game as he looks for another memorable tour after an impressive show three years ago when he tormented Ricky Ponting in Perth.
India's opponents on Thursday do not have many prominent Australian cricketers, with Test hopeful Ed Cowan being replaced by Queensland opening batsman Ryan Broad at the last minute. Broad will captain the side, which has no Australian Test player and is composed of players not involved in the Big Bash Twenty20 League.
It won't, however, be easy for the visitors to be at their best under cold conditions and a seaming wicket expected to be found at Manuka Oval.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
CA Chairman's XI: Ryan Broad (c), Joe Burns, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Peter George, Jake Haberfield, Josh Lalor, Tim Ludeman, Glenn Maxwell, Joe Mennie, Wes Robinson, Dean Solway.
Image: Ishant Sharma