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Australia's core will be better equipped for subcontinent challenges: McDonald

Last updated on 04 Mar 2023 | 12:49 PM
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Australia's core will be better equipped for subcontinent challenges: McDonald

Australia do not tour India until 2027, but they visit the subcontinent to take on Sri Lanka in 2025

With a comprehensive nine-wicket victory against India in the Indore Test Australia qualified for the Wotld test Championship (WTC) final. They went 2-0 down but now have the chance to level the series in the Ahmedabad Test, that is set to get underway from March 9.

While head coach is pleased with his team's performance in Indore, he is more excited with the prospect of of the core group of players learning what it takes to win matches in the subcontinent, starting with the ongoing series. 

Australia do not tour India until 2027, but they visit the subcontinent to take on Sri Lanka in 2025. Andrew McDonald believes this will be a terrific workout for players like Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Cameron Green and others who are short of experince at the hghest level in such conditions.

"Usman Khawaja's performances here are probably tied back to his first experience in the subcontinent, Steve Smith as well," McDonald said. 

"Everyone's journey starts at some point in time on the subcontinent, and I think there's a core group of players that will come back here more experienced and, in theory, better equipped for the challenges. 

"We're talking about a series here where we've had certain conditions that probably aren't relatable to any other subcontinent tour over time, so it's always a different challenge when you do arrive here."

Australia lost their last six wickets for just 11 runs in the first innings in Indore, but other than that, it was a near-perfect performance by Australia.

"You have almost got to be near perfect against India in India. I think this game besides that 6 for 11 was near perfect," McDonald said. 

"We had a little bit of luck. Marnus getting bowled off a no-ball, how critical was that at that point in time, [and] that allowed a partnership to flourish. We took our opportunities as well. Usman's flying catch and then Smudge [Smith] winding back the clock with that one at leg slip. You compare that to the Delhi game where Smudge dropped one at first slip and then we dropped one at leg slip in Matthew Renshaw, and they were critical.

"We had one hour of chaos there and that cost us that Test match when we'd played pretty good cricket. We came here and doubled down on what we'd set out to achieve at the start of the tour.

"So on the back of Delhi, it was 'how clear are we going to be in what we need to do next'. Is this team good enough? Yes. What do we need to do next? We'd lost 6 for 11, nothing we can do about that. 

"We go out there and Nathan Lyon as the experienced spinner delivers one of his best performances. It always takes an individual to do something special to get the team back on track, no doubt about that."

McDonald also praised Alex Carey's keeping. He felt that the stumping of Rohit Sharma early on in the Test gave his side the control in Indore. "One part that hasn't been spoken about enough is Alex Carey's keeping," he said. 

"I think that on day one, that ball to Sharma, that high take, that stumping, if he doesn't execute that Sharma gets a look at the wicket, he plays differently and the game rolls in a different direction.

"I think sometimes we are quick to criticise wicketkeepers. In this instance, I thought that day one was an absolute clinic and gave us control of the game. We saw [KS] Bharat miss a couple of half-chances, or get his leg in the way of balls that could have gone to first slip. So I thought that was a key moment in the game."

The pitch at Holkar Stadium received a poor rating by the ICC after Australia wrapped up things within three days. However, McDonald believes that the toss and pitch are irrelevant.

"I think you can see that in the fact that all three games have been won against the toss, teams batting first have lost, and that's rare," he said. 

"It's usually pretty hard to win against the toss but here we've seen three matches go that way. I think the more extreme the conditions, the less the toss is relevant."

India still have to win the Ahmedabad Test to assure themselves of a placein the WTC final. However, if Sri Lanka go winless against New Zealand in the two-Test series, also starting March 9 in Christchurch, result in Ahmedabad will not matter.

The Aussie head coach believes that the pressure has now transferred to the Indian dressing room, who still need a result to play the summit clash in June. "I don't think we know what we're going to get in Ahmedabad, I don't think anyone does," he said.

"But we've definitely put some pressure into that change room. Full credit to the guys. [It's] great reward for a group that over the past couple of weeks have had their challenges."

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