Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, has defended offspinner Nathan Hauritz following his disappointing returns in the ongoing tour of India by suggesting a lack of bounce could be the reason and backing him to be well-prepared for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane.
Hauritz was ineffective against India’s batsmen in the Tests, averaging 65 for his six wickets, and went wicketless in his team’s five-wicket defeat in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam.
“His performance is better in Test cricket than what he has done here in India,” Nielsen told reporters in Margao, the venue of the third and final ODI on Sunday. “We have talked quite a bit since the end of the second Test. (He’s) started getting used to the conditions. He hasn’t got the assistance here he gets in Australia, probably because of the slowness of the wickets and the lack of bounce.
“The Indian spinners put a lot of top spin on the ball to try and get the ball to bounce. In Australia the wickets are harder and we probably concentrate more on sidespin. It’s a big difference when you play in these conditions, something Nathan has to do to get adjusted to the playing conditions here.”
Hauritz was Australia’s best bowler in the home Test series against Pakistan in 2009-10, where he picked up 18 wickets, and Nielsen said he had a chance to return to form ahead of the Ashes. “It was a massive learning curve for him. He’s a better bowler as a result of it,” Nielsen said. “He’s got two-three Sheffield Shield matches and that should help him prepare well for the first Test.”
Instead, Nielsen said, the inexperience of Australia’s fast-bowling attack was a bit of a concern. Two seamers – John Hastings and Mitchell Starc – made their debuts in the Visakhapatnam game, while their partner Clint McKay was still new to international cricket. “If we lack anything it is the experience in the fast bowling group that we had in the past,” Nielsen said. “When we won the Champions Trophy in South Africa last year we had (Peter) Siddle, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson as our first three bowlers. That makes it a lot easier when bowlers four and five come into the attack.
“We have Starc, Hastings and Mckay who have played very little international cricket. It puts pressure on our middle bowlers. Probably it was a little bit evident the other night when we did not take early wickets.”
When asked if the results on this tour had affected Australia’s World Cup preparation, Nielsen said: “We are not panicking at all. We understand we haven’t got the results we would have liked but we have been very competitive. If you add the loss of (Ricky) Ponting, (Mitchell) Johnson, (Shane) Watson, (Michael) Hussey, (Shaun) Tait, (Brett) Lee to this one day side, we would take this side.”
It has been raining in Goa over the last couple of days and Nielsen expected the pitch to play slow on Sunday. “I’m not sure it has seen a lot of sunshine,” Nielsen said. “I don’t think it will be a hard, fast, bouncy wicket. Still (there are) two days to go. They can roll a bit more tomorrow, if the sun comes out. The wicket may be a bit slow but it could be a good batting wicket.”
Nielsen confirmed Callum Ferguson would replace Michael Hussey in the middle order. Hussey has returned to Australia to represent his state side Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield.