India vs Australia: George Bailey-led Oz team makes a soft landing

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai | Updated: Oct 8 2013, 14:18pm hrs
George BaileyAustralia ODI skipper George Bailey prepares for a practice session at the CCI in Mumbai on Monday. (IE photo: Pradeep Kocharekar)
The Australians quietly checked into the city and got straight down to business without indulging in any banter. Perhaps talking tough and mentally disintegrating opponents was easier when players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting were around.

Maybe this Australian side, led by George Bailey - in the absence of skipper Michael Clarke, who is nursing a back injury - is taking the safe and sensible route rather than being provocative in the build-up to the series.

Regardless, as India and Australia gear themselves up for a series of seven ODIs and a one-off T20 at Rajkot on October 10, the feeling one gets is of this being a friendly affair rather than two teams competing for number one spot in the ODI rankings.

We are polite, smiles Bailey. We have got enough challenges and certainly dont probably have the superstars like Warne or McGrath, the 31-year-old adds, insisting that they would rather prefer that bat and ball do the talking.

Its a young squad, largely comprising faces so unknown that a couple of curious onlookers watching their practice session from the sidelines concluded that Australia had sent a junior side. Even coach Steve Rixon, who is standing in for Darren Lehmann, goes unnoticed at times. Not that it bothers them, though. If we are going to play good one-day cricket, if we win this series, we will need all 13 or 14 of us to play really well, Bailey says.

Past perfect

Though not the favourites, Australia will take a lot of inspiration from their record in the subcontinent. Though they lost a rain-affected three-match series 1-0 in 2010 after two games were washed out, they had won the previous two ODI series 4-2 and 4-2, which will serve as a reminder of the reputation they have to protect. Back then, Ponting gloated about his teams greatest strength - their squad depth.

Bailey isnt able to brag about bench strength like his former captain. But he will at least take heart from the fact that his boys do not endure sleepless nights anymore over the prospect of playing in the subcontinent, at least in the shorter formats, thanks to the IPL.

Rixon, who himself is the fielding coach of Chennai Super Kings, says its an advantage to know, in depth, how the likes of Dhoni, Ashwin and Raina play. But we have plenty of hard work to do. Its not just about knowing the players but also knowing how to combat those players, Rixon says.

What gives them further confidence is that five other players - Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Glen Maxwell - have been in India for the last fortnight playing in the Champions League T20.

We have been fortunate to have five of them playing. We are in a reasonable position. In the end, its the guys about who have not been playing a lot of cricket. We need to get them up and ready leading to the T20 and seven ODIs. Once that happens, we are ready for the contest, says Rixon.

2015 WC focus

Sandwiched between two Ashes series, its natural to assume that Australia are looking at this series as just an academic exercise before the return leg against England begins, in a little over 40 days in Brisbane. Bailey, however, was quick to rebuff the idea. I think its (this series) towards (preparations) the 2015 World Cup. We have got some guys here who have been in the Ashes side and some guys who will be pushing for a spot, he says.

Theres a lot to go through before we start to focus on the Ashes again. There are plenty of guys back in Australia who are already starting to focus on the Ashes. As far as this tournament goes, the focus is more in the preparation for the 2015 World Cup.

No impact from Chappell comments

Australia captain George Bailey has insisted that former Australia captain Ian Chappells comments will have no impact on the team. Chappell said the badly timed matches will dent the teams morale by exposing their glaring batting frailties on spin-friendly tracks.I dont think his comments have any bearing on the team. I think he has not been involved with the Australian team for a very, very long time. So I am not sure his comments dont have particular relevance to this series, Bailey said on Monday.