Virat Kohli (left) and Cheteshwar Pujara will be keen to regain the form they were in in South Africa after a disappointing series in England © Getty Images
Virat Kohli (left) and Cheteshwar Pujara will be keen to regain the form they were in in South Africa after a disappointing series in England © Getty Images

India will play two practice games against a Cricket Australia XI in Adelaide ahead of the first Test. These games are only two-day encounters and may not have such a huge bearing on the team’s fortunes. However, India have the opportunity to try out a few things and tune themselves to the conditions. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about the practice games and their importance.

When India slumped to an embarrassing nadir during the tour to England in 2011, many blamed the lack of practice games in the lead-up to the Test series. Thus, when India travelled Down Under later that year, two practice games were accommodated before the Boxing Day Test. However, the results were no different as India faced a second successive whitewash overseas. Three years down the line, India embark on a challenge in Australia, with an English failure in the backdrop. How much will the practice games help ahead of the Test series?

Before an overseas Test series, it is imperative that a team gets acclimatized to the conditions. However, India’s results in recent overseas tours reflect an interesting anomaly. In Australia in 2011, they had two good warm-up encounters, followed by a poor Test series. In South Africa last year, the tour game was washed out, denying some of the Test specialists a hit in a match situation. Yet, in the Johannesburg Test, India looked good and almost pulled off a victory. Yes, they had played the One-Day International (ODI) series before that, but batsmen like Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay, who played crucial roles in the Test series, were playing their first games on that tour.

Fast forward to the England tour earlier this year. India had two decent hits ahead of the Test series and did well in the first two Tests as well. However, following the victory at Lord’s, it all went downhill as India failed to maintain intensity and tapered off to an embarrassing 3-1 loss. It wasn’t so much about the lack of preparation, but the inability to maintain intensity on that long tour. Ahead of their upcoming challenge in Australia, India have to be wary of that and ensure they do not commit the same errors.

India will play two practice games in Adelaide against a Cricket Australia XI. This does not feature any big names, but contains some of the promising players on the Australian circuit. India can experiment and play around with a few combinations. However, the two games are only two-day affairs each. Reading too much into them won’t be advisable. The batting and bowling may only get an innings each to get used to the conditions. India have to be wise in choosing their combinations.

Firstly, it would be imperative to play the three openers in the side at Nos 1, 2, and 3. Also, Pujara and Virat Kohli need a hit considering their failure in England. Both batsmen would be eager to make up for that and need to be in the zone ahead of the first Test. A good hit or two in the middle would give them the opportunity to do so. Also, India can then decide on their middle order with Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Naman Ojha in the mix. As far as the bowling goes, it should be fairly simple to deal with. All the bowlers in the unit should get an outing with the rules allowing a change during innings.

India seem to have a unit in mind as they head Down Under, but these two games will help them settle on a combination. The team would do well to feed on Kohli’s statements and confidence. Belonging to a generation that is unfazed by challenges, Kohli sent a message across that India mean business during his pre-departure press conference. Though MS Dhoni would return later, it is Kohli’s energy that should help the team.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)