Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin and the captain Michael Clarke will take part in the camp, from December 20 to 22. They will be joined byShane Watson, who is hoping to be fit for Boxing Day after suffering a hamstring injury in South Africa last month. Daniel Christian, the 12th man from the Hobart Test, will also take part, as will Shaun Marsh, but only if his ongoing back problem allows.
Cricket Australia described the batting camp as a way to complement the preparation of David Warner,Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Ed Cowan, who will at the time be playing for the CA Chairman’s XI against the Indians in Canberra. Australia’s selectors will choose the squad for the Melbourne Test after the three-day Chairman’s XI game.
There is much work to be done for the batting group. Against New Zealand they struggled to deal with the accurate swing and seam of Doug Bracewell, Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, while on the previous tour in South Africa they were demolished for 47 when the ball nipped around on a challenging Newlands pitch.
It is not confined to those series. Australia were dismissed for 88 when Pakistan swung the ball on the first day in Leeds last year, and for 98 last Boxing Day against England. In the previous two series, only Clarke and the newcomer David Warner averaged more than 30, of the specialist batsmen, and they are also the only men to have scored centuries.
“Obviously I was disappointed,” Arthur said after the loss in Hobart. “The swinging ball was one thing that again probably exposed us a little bit. That’s going to be top of the agenda to work on before Boxing Day because I know [India coach] Duncan Fletcher really well and I know he’ll try and expose us with the swinging ball. We need to put a hell of a lot of work into that, especially with our top seven batters. That’s going to be the focus.”
High on the agenda will be working against the style of bowling likely to come from India, whose Test attack will be spearheaded by Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan, who is returning from injury. Last time India played Tests in Australia, Ishant was a teenage prodigy whose angle in to the right-handers troubled Ponting especially.
During one magnificent spell at the WACA, where India won, Ishant worked Ponting over for an hour and began to expose the vulnerabilities that have plagued Ponting since. Although his overall record against Australia is moderate, Ishant has dismissed Ponting and Clarke six times each from eight Tests, while he has also picked up Watson’s wicket four times from five games.
“The bowling machine is probably going to replicate that a little bit,” Arthur said. “We can work on angles that Ishant bowls and how Ishant bowls, try and replicate how he bowls. I think if we can get a couple of extra days into our batters, to sharpen them up and sharpen their techniques up, I think that’s going to be invaluable ahead of what is a massive series for Australia.”
In his first two Tests in charge, Arthur has seen the best and the worst of the side, with their strong victory at the Gabba followed by their first loss to New Zealand in 18 years. That inconsistency is one of the major problems the team needs to rectify, and often it is the senior members of the side rather than the younger men who are up and down.
One example is Haddin, the vice-captain for the New Zealand series. In Cape Town he played two reckless shots to get out in trying circumstances, before he contributed two valuable half-centuries in Johannesburg and Brisbane to help set up Australia’s wins. But that was again followed by two poorly-judged shots to get out in Hobart.
In the first innings, Haddin lobbed Bracewell to mid-off to leave Australia at 6 for 69, and in the chase, he was dropped at slip one ball and caught in the cordon the very next delivery, having not learnt from his error, driving at a Southee outswinger. Arthur said to some degree the Australians had to accept the aggressive style was Haddin’s natural game but that he, like all the batsmen, needed to adapt to the situation.
“One of the key words I used [in the post-match address] was ‘resilient’,” Arthur said. “The situation out there demanded a little bit of resilience and I was a little bit disappointed through the middle how we folded. Those are things we’ve discussed, we’ve discussed them openly and honestly.
“You’d like to think the guys who are more experienced are able to adapt to the situation. I would think that your experienced players would do that very comfortably. They’ve all been in that position before and won games for Australia.”
Before their Test batting camp, all the batsmen are expected to appear in a Big Bash League match, subject to fitness, with the exception of Hughes, who has withdrawn from the T20 tournament. Their focus will need to quickly return to the longer format when they convene in Melbourne next Tuesday.