THE first champagne corks had barely popped when the winds of change were already blowing hard on the Australian dressing room door.
As much as Australia’s remarkable form revival this summer deserves to be celebrated by the young players that have made it happen, captain Steve Smith has warned his side to be under no illusions about the magnitude of the challenge that awaits them in India.
Smith says the core of the team that romped to a 3-0 clean sweep against Pakistan at the SCG will head to the subcontinent, but changes are also likely, with Shaun Marsh in serious contention to open ahead of gun rookie Matt Renshaw and even Glenn Maxwell in the frame to return from his Test exile.
Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq put Australia’s spin twins Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe on notice by declaring that their strong performances in Sydney will go out the window once they arrive on Indian minefields — and former Test great Shane Warne continued his push for selectors to consider young Queensland leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson for the touring party.
“When the bowlers from here go to Asia, they find it difficult to utilise the turning tracks. It will be difficult for them,” said ul-Haq.
Smith is one of the only survivors from the hellish 2013 Homeworkgate tour of India, and says that while his new-look squad won’t carry those same scars, their distinct inexperience in alien subcontinental conditions makes them just as vulnerable.
“It’s a completely different place,” Smith said.
“Playing on those wickets is nothing like playing on wickets in Australia. Guys are going to have to adapt quickly.
“We’re under no illusions it’s going to be tough.
“The core of this group will take part in India, a few of us have been there before and we know it’s an extremely difficult (place to go).
“It’s going to be a great challenge and learning curve for this group.
“There’s going to be a few people added to the squad.
Lyon and O’Keefe (3-53) bowled well as Australia cruised to an emphatic 220-run triumph over Pakistan on day five in Sydney, with Josh Hazlewood also capping off his memorable summer with yet another three-wicket haul.
However, coach Darren Lehmann says nothing is being taken for granted and he has a boot camp of enormous intensity planned for his troops in Dubai next month, as lead-up to India.
England recently toured India and made consistently respectable scores, yet were thrashed 4-0.
Lehmann has challenged his players to learn from their disastrous experience in Sri Lanka last year, and protect their wickets like their lives depend on it.
“We’ll have to bat 150 plus overs in India to post a big total,” he said.
“That’s the challenge, but it’s a great challenge for the young group to go forward. They’re fit and strong so they should be able to bat long periods of time.”
However, Lehmann has already flagged that changes are possible.
Renshaw made 184 in Sydney, but proven subcontinental specialist Marsh is back in the mix and selectors are keeping an open mind about the side that will take the field for the first Test in Pune.
Even Maxwell, on the outer with the Australian side earlier this summer, is back in contention due to his ability to bowl spin and bat brilliantly in the middle-order — and Lehmann said variety is needed in the attack.
“That’s going to be a really difficult call. He’s a good young kid and you’re trying to give (Renshaw) as much experience as you can.
“The only way to get better is by playing so that’s the challenge with weighing up the balance to the side in India.
“(Marsh) was exceptional the last Test in Sri Lanka so he’s a real chance.
“(Maxwell) will certainly come under consideration for India.
“We know he plays spin bowling well and offers that extra dimension as a gun fielder.
“The captain is big on having variety in the attack … certainly we’ll be playing two spinners. It just depends on final make up of the side from there.”