Post the disappointing summer of 2011, preparation, or the lack of it, became one of the most widely discussed subjects in Indian cricket. We'd failed to prepare, and hence should've been ready to fail too.
Ricky Ponting once told me that the moment pressure increases, the accuracy of our skill execution rate drops to 70%. So, if one has mastered a yorker or cover drive, there are 30% chances of bowling a full toss or mistiming the drive when it matters the most.
This is where preparation steps in. Special training camps, organised ahead of a series and focusing on key areas, thus become so important.
What happens in these camps is an indication of the importance we give to an opponent. If planned meticulously, they must also prepare both the batsmen and bowlers to fine-tune their skills to suit the expected conditions.
Having learnt some crucial lessons with regards to the importance of preparation, and with the series against Australia just round the corner, this is perhaps how Dhoni & Co would look to train for the big fight.
If you're heading to Sri Lanka or planning to prepare dust bowls at home, there's likely to be a special session for all batsmen on polishing their skills against the turning ball. Instead of playing on a well-rolled pitch, batters spend hours batting on the footmarks created by the bowlers, albeit only against spinners and that too from a short distance, for you don't want to risk an injury. One also bears in mind the variety (off-spin, leg-spin or left-arm spin) in the opponent's attack and thus arrange for a few net bowlers of the same kind.
To prepare against the quicks, certain batsmen prefer playing on a concrete surface with heavy plastic balls bowled from a short distance. Finally, most batsmen like to spend hours in the nets and don't take off their pads even when their stint is over. The idea is to get your body used to concentrating for long hours and also wearing the equipment indefinitely.
On the ball
While bowlers rarely have to radically tinker with their skill set, they do need a realignment of line and length depending on the conditions. In India's case, our bowlers must have bowled single stump, assuming a left-hander was on strike. Since Australia has many in their line-up, it's imperative to get the line right. These camps are opportunities to discuss different plans, theories and team mottos. This is when you dissect every player in the opposition and draw specific plans. These sessions, at times, lead to heated exchanges too, but all to bring out the best and in line with the spirit of the game.
The team might also settle down on a motto for the series like we did on 'now or never' in the 2003 World Cup or 'change the trend' in Australia 2003-04.
The idea of these camps is to ensure that nothing surprises you, for if you do your homework thoroughly, little is left for chance.
The writer is ex-India opener