India A v Australia A - Four-Day
Dutchy's India company offers Test trial
Holland confident strong performances in India will pave the way for a Test tour to the UAE
15 August 2018, 06:25 PM AEST
In the seismic aftermath of Australia's Test tour of South Africa earlier this year, auxiliary spinner Jon Holland sought out national selection panel chair Trevor Hohns to gauge where he stood within the pool of bowling stocks.
The answer to that query, at least in as much as Holland interpreted it, will be revealed in the pair of four-day games that an Australia A outfit will play against India A in the port city of Visakhapatnam (Vizag) starting next month.
Given he was the second-string spinner behind Nathan Lyon for four-Test series in seamer friendly South Africa, and the most senior tweaker (alongside Ashton Agar and Mitch Swepson) heading to India, Holland understands Hohns' brief.
If he looms as a significant threat against India's reserve team playing in their home conditions, then a berth for the Test campaign against Pakistan in the UAE that follows immediately after clearly beckons.
"I spoke to Trevor Hohns after the South Africa and he told me pretty much where I stood, and what I needed to do," Holland told Melbourne radio station RSN's 'Breakfast Club' today.
"I think it's pretty obvious that if you take wickets on this A-tour and bowl well, that the opportunity is there to go to Dubai (for the Pakistan series).
"Everyone that's playing cricket around Australia knows there are opportunities coming up in the Test team at the moment, (but) you don't want to look too far ahead.
"The opportunities as a spinner in Australia probably don't come around too often, so to have that (A-team) tour on the horizon is something I've set myself for."
With pace spearheads Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins already ruled out of the two-match Test tour to the Emirates, there's a chance that Australia might load up on spinners with pitch conditions in the desert kingdoms tipped to be low and slow.
As Australia's most successful off-spin bowler, Lyon already has his name inked on the team sheet for those Tests but it's plausible that Australia will employ three specialist spinners, as was the case for their most recent Test in Asia.
On that occasion, Lyon, Agar and Steve O'Keefe carried the attack with Cummins serving as the lone quick in Australia's seven-wicket win against Bangladesh at Chittagong last September.
The factor that looms as Holland's likely impediment is that – because the 31-year-old was surplus to requirements in South Africa – he has played just one first-class match this year, while Agar and Swepson have been involved in limited-overs internationals and Sheffield Shield fixtures respectively.
In addition, left-arm orthodox Agar and leg-spinner Swepson are both members of the Australia A white-ball squad that will take part in a quadrangular series of 50-over matches in India from next week, before the four-day games get underway.
But Holland has been working diligently at Victoria's new Junction Oval training facility, and sought input from his state coach Andrew McDonald about some strategic changes he might embrace when bowling on subcontinental pitches.
O'Keefe has previously highlighted the changes he invokes in Asia, crouching lower in his delivery stride to effectively slide the ball through rather than looking to extract bounce, and Holland also learned much from his two Test matches that were both played in Sri Lanka in 2016.
"Hopefully the wickets (in Vizag) are conducive to spin, but if not I've worked on a few plans because their batsmen are quite attacking against spin," Holland said.
"I'll probably be trying over the wicket to right-handers early on, when the wicket's not doing much, trying to defend one side of the ground to keep yourself in the game until later, when the wicket does break up and does spin.
"Then, you can attack and take wickets.
"Going to India, it's always a challenge playing against tough opposition in their conditions.
"I've done a lot of work, so hopefully I can go over there and bowl well and have another opportunity (at Test level).
"If not, I know that I've done everything that I can."
Australia A Tour of India
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Matthew Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
One-day fixtures in Vijayawada
17 August v India A
19 August v South Africa A
21 August v India B
23 August v India A
25 August v South Africa A
27 August v India B
29 August - Quad-Series Final
Australia A four-day squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain
Four-day fixtures in Vizag
2-5 September v India A
8-11 September v India A