Preparation wise, Australia have left no stone unturned to get all their bases covered ahead of their four-Test series against India starting February 23.
It has now boiled down to selection for playing XI for the first Test in Pune. And going by Friday’s selection for the three-day tour game against India ‘A’ at the Brabourne Stadium, it is clear that Shaun Marsh will be among the five-specialist batsmen.
It was a contest between Usman Khawaja and Marsh for the middle-order berth which the latter sealed with a fine 104 (retired) on Day One as Australia posted 327/3. Marsh and his skipper Steve Smith (107 retired) posted a 156-run third-wicket partnership.
Marsh may not have the experience of playing in Tests in India, but his record in the subcontinent is a reason that makes him a clear favourite. While Khawaja had a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka last year, Marsh had scored two centuries against Sri Lanka and has been hugely successful in Indian Premier League.
“It’s just a good place. It’s a really great challenge,” said Marsh about successful stints in the subcontinent. “I’ve played a lot of cricket over here, whether it is one-day cricket or IPL cricket or Test cricket in Sri Lanka. So, I feel comfortable out there. I know it’s going to be a good challenge, and I just want to enjoy it,” said Marsh after the first day’s play.
In India, Marsh has scored 155 runs in five ODIs, 180 runs in eight T20Is and 2213 runs in 61 IPL matches. Marsh said the challenging conditions in India excite him. “It’s a place where I’ve always enjoyed coming and playing. This Test series is going to be a really good challenge for us as well, coming up against a quality opposition. It’s going to be a great series for everyone,” he said.
Although the conditions and the quality of spin attack were nowhere close to what the Australians would experience in the Tests, Marsh said he is well-prepared to tackle the quality Indian spinners on turning tracks. “They’ll take spin like Sri Lanka did the last year. It spun over there. So, we know what wickets we’re going to get. It’s just about being ready for it and players having a really strong game plan and sticking to it. Just challenging each other, it’s going to be good fun,” said Marsh.