The first batch of Australians arrived in Chennai on Thursday night. Part of the group was Australia's fielding coach and former New Zealand stumper, Steve Rixon. Friday was devoted to rest and relaxation for the Aussies as they prepared themselves for the arduous four-Test series that begins in Chennai from February 22.
"We have played a lot of cricket over the Australian summer and are in good shape at the moment. Saturday will be a physical day of training and Sunday will be devoted to strategizing for the first warm-up match," said Rixon. Australia will play a two-day practice game against Board President's XI at the Guru Nanak College Ground in Chennai from Monday.
Rixon is the current fielding coach of the Chennai Super Kings and is all praise for the facilities in the southern city. "Chennai is like a second home for me," said the New South Wales native. "I love the city and the facilities here are very good. The boys are happy being in Chennai and are grateful to the locals, who bend over backwards to help us out."
Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja, Moises Henriques, Steve Smith, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird and Nathan Lyon are the eight Australians who arrived in India early to acclimatise to the conditions. Despite criticism from certain quarters on sending the players over in different groups, Rixon reasoned, "It is an advantage to come as early as we can and adapt to the pitches and the lifestyle. India is a very tough side to deal with in home conditions and we need as much preparation as possible."
With his first-hand knowledge of the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Rixon said he expects a competitive pitch at Chepauk. "Look mate, we are not going to get a green seamer. There will be a little pace on Day 1 but should be advantageous to the spinners. At least, the pitches in India are not as bad as the ones we get in Sri Lanka! There are no big ragging wickets here," he said with a wink in Chennai on Saturday.
Playing in the most humid city in India would be a cause for concern for many, but not Rixon. "I have been here during the summers for the IPL. The temperatures now are at least 10 degrees cooler. It's lovely weather by Chennai standards at the moment," Rixon concluded with a smile.