With their concentration on the moment but also the difficulties ahead, Pat Cummins anticipates that there will be a “big link” between the circumstances for the Sydney Test against South Africa and what Australia will encounter on the next trip to India.
Australia will need to make some hard choices on the composition of their team at the SCG due to a number of variables. Reverse swing is also probably going to play a role since all-arounder Cameron Green, who naturally offers balance, is injured for the match, which is forcing selectors to incorporate Ashton Agar as a second spinner.
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Pat Cummins Feels Good Connection Between SCG Pitch And India
Similar discussions will need to be made during Australia’s upcoming four-test tour to India, which gets underway in early February and is where they want to achieve success.
“It’s a huge connection to India,” Pat Cummins said, while not revealing the final XI for the SCG Test. “Fast bowling and reverse swing is going to come into it, which we can expect in India. Probably get more spin overs here, our batters are probably going to face more spin here as well. So it’s a really good connection.
“Even personally captaining here might be a little different to the last few Test matches. So it’s a really good prep. Whatever you do there’s going to be strong connection to India, which is nice. It’s not by purpose, it’s just worked out that way.”
If Agar participates, it will mark the first time since 2016–17 that Australia will field two frontline spinners for a home Test. Agar last played in the format in 2017. Along with Nathan Lyon and maybe Mitchell Swepson and the untested Todd Murphy, he can anticipate being a member of the team for the India trip.
There has been an effort to restore the SCG pitches to more closely resemble what they were once known for, where spin would play a significant role.
Test Cricket Is A Bit Harder: Pat Cummins
However, this year, the weather and the amount of cricket played have also had an impact on the surface, which was last used for Shane Warne’s final Test in 2006–07.
“We’re hoping for a traditional SCG pitch,” curator Adam Lewis said. “It’s not quite what we’ve seen in the past few years. A few of the players have told me it looks like a wicket from about 10 years ago, which gave me a bit of confidence. It’s thin on grass, a bit patchy and probably not the best-looking pitch that we’ve seen, but we’re looking forward to it and we’ve done the best we can.”
The combination of conditions and injuries has provided Australia with a chance to explore various options within their squad at the beginning of a year that includes 11 Tests – if they make the Test Championship final – between now and the conclusion of the Ashes in late July.
“In T20s and one-dayers think [opportunities] happen organically, Test cricket it’s a bit harder,” Pat Cummins said. “Don’t wish [injuries] upon anyone but…we speak a lot about having a squad of 15 plus players to get through a really busy 12-month schedule.
It’s not going to take 11, it will take 15 or 16 and if that means one or two guys get their opportunity they may not have got before heading over to a place like India in that hot furnace it’s only a good thing.”
We Have Got A Huge Year Ahead: Pat Cummins
However, having narrowly missed out on the first Test Championship final because of docked points for over-rate – and also slipping up at crucial moments in the previous cycle – there has been a laser focus to ensure there is no repeat.
“That was always going to be a big goal,” Cummins said. “I think we’ve been playing fantastically, we’ve put ourselves in that position to earn that spot early which is a huge driver for us.”
On the verge of a summer clean sweep against what has been largely underwhelming opponents in West Indies and South Africa, the next seven months will likely define how this Australian Test team is remembered. If they complete a hat-trick of winning in India (which will be a monumental task) taking the Test Championship title, and securing an Ashes in England, Pat Cummins’ side will need to be ranked very highly.
“We’ve got a huge year ahead,” he said. “I think even in these three weeks it might be a good time to pause and think about what a great 12 months it’s been for this team. Pakistan and Sri Lanka were two really good subcontinent tours with a third one in India to come. 2023 is going to be a big year.”