Amongst all the fresh faces in the Australian set-up, there are an additional two that seem to stand out more than the others. One is a well-built man whose action and style of bowling resembles that of Imran Tahir, the other a wiry lad that simply loves bowling his left arm wrist-spin. Both are Indians and have been brought over to Dubai as part of Australia's meticulous preparations for the upcoming two-Test series against Pakistan.
Pradeep Sahu and KK Jiyas, remember the names. For ten days, both of these wrist-spinners have delivered in excess of thousand balls at the Australian batsmen in the nets. They are well and truly part of Australia set-up in the United Arab Emirates. Both of them were brought it to assist the Australian batsmen to tackle the threat of Yasir Shah and the other Pakistan bowlers that the Aussie batsmen will confront.
Last year, Australia had exceeded their own expectations by pushing India to the limit during the gruelling Test series, but would eventually return empty-handed. This time around, albeit without David Warne and Steve Smith, the Australian are desperate to finally break their Asian jinx. Last year before the India series, Australia had spent a week in Dubai, practicing on pitches that were scrapped with wired brushes and powered with dry grass clippings.
This time around they have taken an additional step and recruited two Indian bowlers that will replicate the Pakistan spinners. It is all part of a scrupulous arrangement to succeed in the sub-continent.
So how did it all transpire? The man scripting all the plans is former Indian all-rounder Sridhar Sriram. He was recruited on an operational basis in 2015, under the regime of Darren Lehmann to find a solution to Australia's spinning woes. Sriram has worked effortlessly to conjure various ways to ensure Australia are fully prepared for any challenges.
It was Sriram who decided to rope in Sahu and Jiyas for the series. Sriram had first heard of Jiyas, the left-arm chinaman bowler from Kerala from his Delhi Daredevils coaching staff TA Sekhar. Jiyas was part of the Daredevils team in 2015, and while he didn't have the greatest of impact, Sriram was aware of his potential. Then last year on Australia's tour of India, Jiyas was called into Australian nets by Sriram to replicate Kuldeep Yadav.
From all accounts, he impressed many of the Australian players and Sriram was quick to call him into camp ahead of the Pakistan tour. Jiyas has bowled non-stop in the nets. He has tested all the batsmen with his wrong'uns, flippers and leg spinners. With each session, he has improved his accuracy and has provided an abundance of practice that has allowed the Australian batsmen to train their minds against quality spin bowling on turning pitches.
Pradeep Sahu hails from Haryana but now plays cricket for Payyade Sports Club in Mumbai. The leg-spinner was part of the Kings XI setup and his accuracy along with his fizz impressed Sriram during a practice session during an IPL. Sahu was more or less seen as the clone of Yasir Shah and an ideal bowler to face ahead of the Pakistan series.
Sahu has been bowling with the new ball, bowling around the wicket into the rough, trying to fox the batsmen with his googly and trying to make the batsmen make a mistake by bowling at the stumps. The whole purpose of having him in Dubai is to ensure the Australian batsmen have relentless pressure put on them in the nets.
Having two quality spinners has helped batsmen like Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh enhance their games against slow bowling. Head stated that it was fantastic to constantly practice the forward prod while Marsh made no secret that is was the enduring net sessions against the quality spinners that has helped him to play with soft hands.
Asked about the Sahu and Jiyas, Australian coach Justin Langer said, "It's easy to come up with ideas, anyone can come up with all these ideas but to actually get the Indian spinners to come and be with us, I love that. I love that we had a plan and we executed, hopefully, we get some benefit out of it."
So impressed has been the Australian camp that last week Sahu was flown back to Mumbai for a club match and then brought back again for the last part of the preparation. Both the players have stayed in the team hotel and have been an integral part of the Australian set-up.
Peter Siddle summed up the benefits of having Sahu and Jiyas the best by stating to cricket.com.au, "In the past, we've come into series, worked hard on spin, but not specifically on (their opponents') bowling, what deliveries they bowl and the cues to watch as a batter."
With local boards depriving quality practice session for travelling teams, perhaps we will see more teams adopting bowlers from various nations to plan and prepare for foreign conditions.
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