Hazlewood: ‘We have specific plans for the pitches’

Australia’s most skilful and successful new ball operators, left arm Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are hopeful of manipulating the SG ball through conventional and reverse swing in the four-Test series.

Nathan Lyon (left) and Josh Hazlewood addressing the media on Tuesday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Australia’s most skilful and successful new ball operators, left arm Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are hopeful of manipulating the SG ball through conventional and reverse swing in the four-Test series. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon was quite matter-of-fact while saying that they don’t expect fast wickets and the idea would be to build pressure through other ways they have planned.

Both Starc and Hazlewood may have something up their sleeves, but fielding questions from the media for the first time on the this tour, Hazlewood said: “We have all been working together at the nets and working on different things and its coming on nicely. We are the frontline quicks (Hazlewood, Mitchell Strarc and Jackson Bird), and there’s Mitch Marsh as well. I have not bowled with the SG ball before this tour really.

“This is the first time with it. It’s a little bit different. I have been practising with it in the last few weeks. The brand new balls swing a little bit and once it gets old, it reverses a bit as well. There are good signs there.’’

Two years ago Cricket Australia made a smart move by withdrawing Hazlewood from IPL-8, so that the young NSW fast bowler with sufficient nous can focus on Test match cricket. On his first tour of Sri Lanka in 2016, Hazlewood began well taking 3 for 21 and 2 for 59 in the first Test at Pallekele, and played the supporting role in the remaining two to Starc, who took 24 wickets. Australia lost the series 3-0. “We are prepared well this time; we trained and practised in Dubai and in Mumbai. Definitely we are a lot more prepared this time around and we have done everything we have to do leading to this first Test. It’s just a question of putting our plans into action.”

It will be interesting to see how skipper Steve Smith deploys Starc and Hazelwood; either in short spells as Hansie Cronje used to do with his fast bowlers or give them extended spells. Pointing out the likely challenges on slow Indian pitches, Hazlewood explained: “Obviously it’s the bounce first of all. In Australia, you get good bounce most of the games; you are not going to get that here and have to look at getting five wickets in other ways; whether it’s through reverse swing, or cutters on wickets that can spin and grip as well. I have been working hard on a few different things. Hopefully put them in practice this week.”

Further Hazlewood also talked about the ball not getting good carry: “You expect that (nicks not carrying) to happen for most of the game from day one. It’s still going to carry with the harder ball. It’s quite different in Australia where the nicks will carry (to the keeper and slip cordon) most of the time. You just have got to head around it. I guess once the ball gets a little bit softer, nicks are not going to carry. You have to try and take wickets in other ways.”

When told that curator of the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, the venue for the first Test, (former Maharashtra fast bowler Pandurang Salgaonkar) expects the ball to fly around, both Hazlewood and Lyon had a hearty laugh: “Very surprising if it (ball) buzzes around here...I don’t know too much about wickets. There is still another one and half days for the Test to start. We will have a good look on the morning of the game and hopefully the ball will fly around.”