Cricket Australia have engaged a former Ashes rival to prepare for next month’s tour of India, hiring former England Test spinner Monty Panesar as a spin-bowling consultant.
Left-arm tweaker Stephen O’Keefe and young opener Matthew Renshaw will work with Panesar at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane on pitches designed to replicate the dry, turning tracks they expect to encounter in the subcontinent.
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Panesar took 167 wickets in his 50-Test career and thrived on England’s 2012 tour of India where he formed a lethal spin partnership with Graeme Swann to help secure only the second Test series victory by a visiting team (after Australia in 2004) in that country this century.
The 34-year-old is playing NSW Premier Cricket for Campbelltown-Camden and was incidentally one of O’Keefe’s nine victims in a grade match over the weekend against Manly-Warringah.
“I don’t know if I’ll be getting too much batting advice from Monty,” O’Keefe joked on Big Sports Breakfast radio.
“He played in a successful campaign when England won a couple of series ago.
“I’ll definitely be picking his brain (at the NCC).
“It’s a good opportunity to head up to Brisbane again.
“They’ve got some spinning wickets and Monty has got an outstanding Test record and a really good one in India.”
Cricket Australia also confirmed on Tuesday that former India one-day international player Sriram Sridharan will join the coaching staff for the India tour as a spin consultant.
Sridharan, who worked with the national side on their tour of Sri Lanka last year as well as the World T20 in India, will travel to Dubai with some of the Australia players on January 29 to train at the International Cricket Counil Academy.
“Sri has worked with us on a number of occasions now all across our pathway system," Cricket Australia high performance manager Pat Howard said in a statement.
“He knows our players very well and has a wealth of knowledge on the conditions that our players will face in India.”
After suffering a horror run of injuries in recent months, the fit-again O’Keefe opted to pull out of the Sydney Sixers’ KFC Big Bash League campaign following the SCG Test against Pakistan to prepare for the India tour.
O'Keefe and Renshaw are the only two members of the 16-man Test squad who aren’t involved in Australia’s VB one-day international series against Pakistan or in the BBL.
Howard suggested Panesar’s experience in India will help the pair for their India challenge, with the first Test beginning February 23 in Pune.
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“Having Monty come up is a nice way to kickstart the squad’s thinking about playing in India,” Howard told The Australian.
“We want the batsmen to be thinking about what the bowlers will be trying to do to them over there and Monty can engage them that way as well as with the bowlers.”
“(Queensland coach) Phil Jaques will run the sessions with Matt, Monty and SOK. Phil has some nice ideas about how to challenge the batsmen.”
“Bowlers need to be accurate there and batsmen need to get off strike because they are going to have three or four people around the bat.
“They need a Plan A and Plan B.”
Panesar said he was well aware of Australia’s struggles in the subcontinent, laid bare most recently during their 3-0 Test series whitewash in Sri Lanka last August.
"Obviously there has been a question mark over Australian batsmen in away series,” he said.
“So I hope to be able to give them a hand with that stuff and obviously help with the spin bowlers as well.”