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India tour was preparation for Ashes: Nielsen

Last updated on: October 22, 2010 21:15 IST

'It is about making sure our players are right for the Test series at home'


Harish Kotian in Margao

The whitewash in the two-Test series in India has set off alarm bells in Australia. With the all-important Ashes round the corner, the Aussies are a worried lot, taking every measure to ensure the team can bounce back from the disastrous showing.

So, it was not surprising that all their top players, including captain Ricky Ponting, all-rounder Shane Watson and strike bowler Mitchell Johnson, were asked to return home for some rest ahead of the Ashes, starting November 25.

The new-look Australian side, under the leadership Michael Clarke, also failed to break the winless run, going down in the second ODI in Vizag, after the first match was rained out.

Coach Tim Nielsen pointed out that the three-match ODI series is a mere formality for his team and an opportunity to try out youngsters.

"This time it is more about making sure that our players are right for the Test series at home. We play so much of cricket these days and we can't keep pushing these blokes to play everyday. We have to find a happy mix between what was right for the Australian summer and what was right here. We thought that the Test matches in India and the Test matches in Australia are the top priority and we acted that way," Nielsen said in Goa, on Friday, ahead of the third ODI.

Image: Tim Nielsen
Photographs: Reuters

'There were positives from the Vizag game'

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The 42-year-old also defended his young side, saying despite the defeat they all are upbeat and keen to bounce back in Sunday's match.

Left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc and all-rounder John Hastings made their debut in Visakhapatnam and both earned rave reviews from their head coach.

"The mood in the camp is very positive. One of the benefits of having young inexperienced players is that they are really excited about every opportunity that they get to play for Australia. While we lost the game the other night there were some real positives that came out of the game. The kid Starc is only 20 years old, Hastings in his first game was exceptional, I thought. So they look really keen to get a game on Sunday and have another chance to play for Australia.

"So it's that as we get older, like me, and that is when you start getting a bit down about results. The young blokes just jump out of bed and want to play again and they are really keen," he said.

Image: Mitchell Starc

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'Excellent experience for our bowling group'

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Captain Michael Clarke had a precautionary MRI scan on his right hand at a hospital in Visakhapatnam on Thursday. The right-hander was struck on his right wrist by a short delivery from pacer Ishant Sharma during the first Test in Mohali, but the scans revealed no damage.

"It was just a precautionary look at his hand. That was struck by Ishant Sharma in the first Test at Mohali. It was a little bit tender at different times and then he batted for a long time in the first one-dayer. He is fine; we just wanted to make sure that nothing was wrong," the Aussie coach said.

With their top pacers, Peter Siddle, Brett Lee and Doug Bollinger, unable to play because of injuries, Australia's poor bench strength in their bowling has been exposed. But Nielsen sought to his defend his young bowlers, saying it is more of a learning tour for them.

"The series has been good, especially for our bowling group. We had Starc and Hastings make their debut in the Visakhapatnam game. Clint McKay has played probably 10 ODIs and even Steven Smith has played only 10 ODIs. So it has been an excellent experience for our bowling group and it was nice to see our senior players in Hussey, White and Michael Clarke stand up as senior batsmen and give us a really competitive total. I would like to believe that we can defend 290 more often than not."

Image: Clint McKay

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'Hauritz will be ready for first Ashes Test'

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India's spinners have always had much success on the slow pitches at home over the years, but that does not seem to be the case for spinners from abroad, including the legendary Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.

And, not surprisingly, even Nathan Hauritz received harsh treatment in the Tests, in which he took just six wickets in the two matches, at an average of 65. Things didn't improve in the second ODI at Vizag, where he was hit for 54 runs in ten overs, as Australia lost by five wickets.

Nielsen pointed out that Hauritz failed to come to terms with the conditions in India, but will definitely return to top form in the Ashes.

"Hauritz has had better performances in Test cricket than he had in India. It was probably the slowness of the wickets here and the lack of bounce in the wickets that affected him. He normally gets some assistance in Australia. It is no secret that the Indian spinners put a lot of top-spin on the ball to try and get the ball to bounce, while in Australia the surfaces are harder and we try and concentrate more on side-spin.

"So that is a big difference when you play in those conditions. Something Nathan had to do to adjust to these conditions. He has got two or three Sheffield Shield matches when he gets back to Australia and, I am sure, come the first Ashes Test, he will be ready."

Image: Nathan Hauritz

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'We are not panicking at all'

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He went on to put on a bold front, saying the team is not panicking despite suffering defeats after defeats in India.

"It was like the first Test at Mohali. You know, it was just a matter of one ball and everybody would have then said how well we played. We are not panicking at all," Nielsen said.

He also confirmed that youngster Calum Ferguson would take Michael Hussey's place in the middle order, while it is not clear whether David Warner will open the innings on Sunday.

If Clarke & Co. lose Sunday's match also, they will suffer the ignominy never associated with an Australian cricket team -- of not winning a single game on a tour.

Image: Team Australia

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