Australia are keeping an open mind about what conditions they could face in their Test against India at Wankhede Stadium but are ready to embrace anything that is thrown at them.
Shelley Nitschke, Australia’s coach, noted the “challenging” pitch that was on offer for the England game at DY Patil Stadium last week where the visitors were bundled out for 136 and 131. And she expects spin to again play a major role during Australia’s first Test in the country since 1984.
They have trained at the Wankhede Stadium since arriving and had a 50-over practice match on Sunday but are still facing distinct unknowns about what will be provided for the Test.
“It’s a tough one to prepare for,” Nitschke said. “The girls are coming off the back of a WBBL, and looks like we are going to get some really traditional subcontinent conditions but it’s also really exciting. Think everyone is just embracing the challenge. We are just doing whatever we can to prepare.
“Think it will just be a matter of how quickly that pitch deteriorates. It’s a matter of adapting on the run and not getting too far ahead of ourselves, thinking that it will do something. We are trying not to read too much into it, but we certainly know what way it could go but it will be interesting how much it does change across the four days.”
With all that in mind, there remains a lot to play out in terms of how Australia will structure their side although the number of allrounders in the squad gives them plenty of options. All four spinners – Ashleigh Gardner, Georgia Wareham, Jess Jonassen and Alana King – could feature with top-order batters Ellyse Perry and Tahlia McGrath adding to the seam-bowling depth alongside fellow allrounder Annabel Sutherland.
Nitschke confirmed that Alyssa Healy, the new permanent captain, was on track to lead the side and keep wickets following her recovery from the finger injury caused by a dog bite which ruled her out of the majority of the WBBL. She did not take the gloves in the warm-up match as part of a measured return to action but hit a half-century.
“Everything is looking really positive, so fingers crossed it keeps going that way over the next three or four days,” Nitschke said. “Unless there’s some significant change think Midge [Healy] will be leading at the first day of the Test.”
Australia are in effect selecting from 13 players for the Test with allrounder Heather Graham having just arrived after staying at home to play two WNCL matches. Megan Schutt is not yet with the squad having previously conceded her Test days were behind her and Grace Harris is only part of the T20s.
If they go very spin-heavy, it could mean room for just one of the frontline quicks between Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle and Kim Garth.
“We’ve certainly got a lot of options and a number of allrounders,” Nitschke said. “We aren’t really clear on where that will land at the moment, we have some decisions to make.”
Left-arm fast bowler Cheatle, who last played for Australia in 2019, impressed during the one-day warm-up match with 4 for 19 and would provide a point of difference with her angle (although could exacerbate rough for the spinners outside the right-handers’ off stump) while Brown has extra pace and Garth can offer swing.
The only Test between India and Australia starts on December 21 in Mumbai.