Batsmen ready for testing conditions - Clarke
Last Boxing Day, the biggest day on Australia's cricket calendar, Andrew Strauss sent the Australians in on a pitch with a little bit of juice in it. They didn't last 50 overs. Chris Tremlett and James Anderson skittled the Australians for 98.
Last Boxing Day, the biggest day on Australia's cricket calendar, Andrew Strauss sent the Australians in on a pitch with a little bit of juice in it. They didn't last 50 overs. Chris Tremlett and James Anderson skittled the Australians for 98. They never recovered, England secured the Ashes with that victory, and the Argus review was commissioned in the weeks that followed.
Fast forward 12 months and the Australians have been bowled out for 47 in an innings against South Africa. They have lost a Test to New Zealand in challenging conditions at Bellerive Oval. Their batsmen continue to fail. Only David Warner and Shaun Marsh, the two newest members of the top order, have averaged more than 40 in the past year.
And now they are back at the MCG. It is still the biggest day on Australia's cricket calendar. They are still struggling against the moving ball, the reason behind their batting camp over the past few days. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are skilled movers of the ball in the air and off the pitch. But the captain Michael Clarke still believes his batsmen should play their natural game, even if they are sent in under cloudy skies.
"I think it's important if we bat first that we play our natural game," Clarke said. "I think you have the confidence to back your own ability. We've done plenty of work so it's not from lack of training ... Our preparation has been spot on. Now it's about getting out there and enjoying every minute of it. I have no concerns if we bat first on that wicket and there's a bit of movement. I'm confident we're ready for it.
"I make no bones about it, we've had extra time as a batting unit because we know we've got to get better at facing the new ball if there's a bit in the wicket. We want to improve. We want to get better in that department of our game as batters. We've done the work though. That's all I can ask any of the boys for."
Clarke said the ghosts of last year's Test - five members of that side will not play this year - were well and truly exorcised. However he said it remained a special day and the Australians would need to handle the atmosphere at the start of the contest against a strong India side.
"It is [special] because of the date," Clarke said. "It's the Boxing Day Test match. It's built up because it is a special Test match, no doubt about it. And we're playing against a very good opposition. I think the start of any Test match is crucial, whether you bat or bowl is irrelevant, but how you start the game... is a good indication to where the Test match is going to end up."
As the first Test in the series, the Boxing Day match will set the tone not only for the type of cricket that is played over the coming month, but also how the teams interact. Last time India toured Australia, under Anil Kumble in 2007-08, the series was acrimonious in the extreme, the Sydney Test featuring controversial umpiring and a racism row involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds.
However, since then the sides have played two Test series, both in India, without major incident, and plenty of the players now turn out together in the IPL. Clarke said he was confident the series would be played in the right spirit.
"I think the IPL has been very good for that," he said. "The relationship between the Australian players and the Indian players is very good and will continue to be that way. The IPL has played a big part, the opportunity to play with people from all around the world.
"In saying that I think the series out on the field will be very competitive. Both teams want to win. Both have a lot to play for. In my career it's been no different against India. It's always been very competitive on the field but off the field both teams get on very well."