Planning, topmost on the agenda

AS Shane Warne takes a break in England to avoid the unrelenting media invasion of the privacy of his family, you can be sure the Australian team's brains trust is planning for its 2003-04 home season.

BOB SIMPSON

Stuart MacGill with some pleasing performances has almost consolidated his position . — Pic. REUTERS-

AS Shane Warne takes a break in England to avoid the unrelenting media invasion of the privacy of his family, you can be sure the Australian team's brains trust is planning for its 2003-04 home season. It has been interesting to note that the Australian Test captain and vice-captain plus the chairman of the Aussie selection panel, Trevor Hohns have all agreed they are pleased with the performances of their other leg spinner Stuart MacGill, intimating that Shane Warne will have to win his spot back when he comes back from his suspension.

Only Allan Border has come out and said "Warne will come back into the team straightaway". I was amazed he should go public with this statement for no matter how big he is in the game, he is just one of the four selectors.

Bearing in mind the home season will be almost over before Warne's suspension ends, the Australians will have this on the backburner and concentrate on how to beat their opponents, Zimbabwe and India.

It is hoped that India has readied all its plans. The first to start in this forward thinking should always be the opposition and the pitches and just what must be done to secure the twenty wickets that is generally needed to win matches.

The four Tests to be played in order will be in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

Cricket pitches have been changing over the last couple of years in Australia. Brisbane will be spicy and green early, and matches can often be decided on the first day. Adelaide is not the perfect batting surface it once was and has been variable sometimes helping the quicks and often the spinners.

Melbourne seems to have mastered the preparation of drop in wickets and for the last few seasons has been a good batting track.

After at least two decades of aiding the spinners, the Sydney groundsmen have finally found out how to grow grass both on the pitch and outfield.

It looked magnificent last year just like it did some years ago when it was undisputedly the finest ground in the world. It was a good cricket wicket with a nice covering of grass which was made for an even battle between the bat and the ball.

Some are suggesting that the closed in-stands have robbed bowlers of the ability to swing the ball. But I believe, this is nonsense and the problem is that there are very few swing bowlers around these days.

India is a little luckier than most and I believe it should concentrate on bringing swing bowlers to Australia rather than look to the dream of genuine pace.

Zaheer Khan is turning out to be a fine left hand swing bowler. — Pic. V. GANESAN-

Over the last decade the Australian batsmen have been worried more by swing and seam than any other type of bowling. This was particularly exposed when Kapil Dev and Prabhakar caused much concern with swing, particularly against the left handers, Allan Border included in, 1991-92.

Right now India has two fine left hand swing bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra on whom it can build a classy bowling attack for Australian conditions. Both can swing the ball, but sometimes nullify this by trying to bowl too fast and short. Between now and the Australian tour, John Wright must instil in them the need for line and length. If they try to bounce the Australians, they will be murdered. Keep it swinging and they will cause trouble.

Alan Davidson was the most lethal left hand swing bowler I have seen. He only shortened the length to remind the batsmen he was quick enough to bounce them or wanted to drive them onto the backfoot if they tried to get forward too much in an endeavour to nullify his swing.

In recent times I have seen other bowlers in India who can swing the ball. What a pity Prasad is not at his best. He would have been an ideal foil for the left handers. While England is always mentioned as the best country to swing the ball I didn't find it so. The English ball is too heavily lackered when new to swing and often becomes greasy. Australia's humid conditions are ideal as is the high seamed Kookaburra ball for swing. In addition the outfields are probably the lushes in the world and for the first few days keep the shine on the ball.

When the wicket gets hard and dry it scuffs up the ball and reverse swing is possible. In all very good for swing bowlers provided they bowl line and length. To succeed as a batsman in Australia you must know how to play or let go the short ball and also how to rotate the strike. You must try to be aggressive, but only to the right ball with the right shot.

Unfortunately of late too many Indian batsmen have played with an open face of the bat and this method leads to, too many slip catches.

To play successfully in Australia your bat must either be perfectly straight or parallel to the ground, such as when you square cut. To play with an angled bat is courting danger either to a catch to slips or inside edging into your stumps.