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Border-Gavaskar series: Why Australia aren't playing practice matches in India?

The four-Test Border-Gavaskar series starts from February 9

mayank-ind-aus-adelaide-test-ap (File) Australia's Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of India's Mayank Agarwal | AP

It has been a norm for touring cricket sides to play practice or warm-up matches ahead of the actual series, to acclimatise themselves with the conditions and pitches.

So, it came as bit of a surprise when Australia decided against playing any tour games in the subcontinent ahead of the four-Test Border-Gavaskar series, starting from February 9.

Australian players have indicated that there was no point playing practice games as the wickets prepared for tour fixtures and actual matches in India were very different. Usman Khawaja, who is part of the squad, said at a press conference earlier this month, “Have you ever been pre-tour with us (Australia)? They can be spinning wickets when we play but we go to the practice matches and they are green Gabba-like wickets out there (in India), so what's the point."

Australia begin their Test series against India at Nagpur and Khawaja had said recently that it was a "good idea" not to play tour games, indicating they serve little purpose.

"I think we have finally learned. When I heard we weren't going to have a practice game I went up to (head coach) Andrew McDonald and said, 'Good idea'.”

Former Australia skipper Steve Smith, too, said his team is better off training on its own rather than playing tour games on "irrelevant" Indian pitches.

"The last time we went (to India) I am pretty sure we got served up a green top (to practice on) and it was sort of irrelevant. Hopefully, we get really good training facilities where the ball is likely to do what it's likely to do out in the middle, and we can get our practice in.”

The 18-member squad, led by Pat Cummins, had a pre-series camp on spin-friendly tracks in Sydney and will have a week-long stint in Bengaluru before the first Test.

Australia have been criticised for not including tour games, which are an integral part of a long series, in their itinerary. But Smith said rigorous nets sessions will help spinners train better.

"We're better off having our own nets and getting spinners in and bowling as much as they can."

Smith, whose side had lost the series 1-2 when it toured India in 2017, indicated a lot of thinking had into the decision.

"We will wait and see when we hit the ground. I think we have made the right decision to not play a tour match. Like I said, last time they dished up a green top for us (in a tour game) and we barely faced any spin, so it's kind of irrelevant."

Legendary Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy, too, took a dig at India, saying the idea behind Australia not playing a tour game in the subcontinent ahead of the Test series is because "we no longer trust" the facilities provided by the host nation.

Healy backed Khawaja's suggestion, saying it was a good idea to assemble the touring party spinners in Sydney ahead of the tour to acclimatise them to replica India pitches.

"We have gathered our spinners in Sydney for strategic talks (on replica India surfaces) we no longer trust that the requested facilities will be provided for a nation," Healy said on SEN Radio on Monday.

Healy said he doesn't like the trend of home boards preparing different sets of wickets for tour games and actual matches, adding that it amounts to a breach of "trust".

"Our focus in cricket has shifted from creating opportunities and experiences for our best up and coming cricketers now we deny touring teams quality preparation before very highly anticipated series and I don't like it.

"It's disappointing to watch such dismantling of trust between cricket's nations and it needs to stop," added Healy.

(With PTI inputs)

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