Australia scored seven centuries in the 3-0 Test series clean sweep of Pakistan completed in Sydney on Saturday (January 7), but Darren Lehmann, the head coach, warned that the batsmen would have to be prepared to “grind it out” and bat for long periods in next month’s four-Test series in India, the first of which gets underway in Pune on February 23.
While Australia had it much their own way against Pakistan, winning all three Tests, attention has now switched to the coming tough assignment on the subcontinent with the squad to be announced this week.
Pundits say it is expected to include the 13 players who were in the squad in Sydney, plus Shaun Marsh and probably two others — likely an additional fast bowler and an extra batting allrounder.
There will be a great deal of focus on Australia’s spin contingent of Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe and Ashton Agar. But Lehmann said it was the batting that must be ready for the challenges against top-ranked India.
“Batting long periods of time is going to be the key. I think Alastair Cook summed it up really well on their tour, where they didn’t bat long enough. They got decent scores but they still didn’t bat long enough,” Lehmann told reporters after Saturday’s 220-run Sydney Test win.
“That’s going to be the challenge for this group. We batted 135 overs in the first innings (in Sydney). We’ll need to bat for 150 overs plus in India to post a big total. It’s a great challenge for the young group. They’re fit and strong so they should be able to bat long periods of time.”
Steven Smith, the captain, was careful not to set expectations too high, recalling Australia’s 4-0 Test series drubbing on their last tour to India in 2013.
“It’s obviously going to be a very difficult series,” said Smith. “We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to play some very good cricket if we want to compete over there. It’s going to be a great challenge and learning curve for this group.
“A few of us have been there before. We know it’s extremely difficult to play them in their own backyard,” he added. “It’s a completely different place to play, playing on those wickets that are nothing like playing on the wickets here in Australia.”
Lehmann refused to guarantee Matt Renshaw, who scored a century in the third Test against Pakistan, a starting berth against India. The young opener is under threat from Marsh if selectors adopt a horses-for-courses policy for the tour of the subcontinent, despite being one of the revelations of Australia’s Test revival since their innings debacle against South Africa in Hobart in November.
Marsh is yet to play a Test in India but has made two centuries from three Tests in Sri Lanka, including 130 in August, at an average of 76.5.
Renshaw has the weight of a career-best 184 in the first innings against Pakistan in Sydney and would be deemed unlucky not to play the first Test against India, let alone miss the tour entirely.
“It’s a case of what’s the best line-up to win in India and compete,” said Lehmann. “At the moment you would say he would play, but we have to sum up what the conditions are like, what the pitches will be like, how we’ll play, how we’ll play everyone in the XI to give us a chance to take 20 wickets.”