CRICKET Australia is confident the likely involvement of three Test players in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in late October will not compromise their preparation for the Test series against South Africa.
CA yesterday released its domestic fixture for the 2012-13 season, which included the Sheffield Shield starting on September 18 – three weeks earlier than last season.
Most states will play four matches by the first week of November, which will give most players ample opportunity to press for selection for the first Test of the summer, on November 9 against the Proteas in Brisbane.
While bowlers such as Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are set to play up to four shield matches, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey and Pat Cummins could be restricted to a single match due to their expected involvement in the Champions League and the preceding World Twenty20 tournament.
Two years ago, Hussey and paceman Doug Bollinger arrived late for a Test series in India because they were instructed to remain in South Africa for the finals of the Champions League. Bollinger was subsequently injured.
CA’s general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, yesterday said he was aware of the tournament overlap and was negotiating with Australia’s two Champions League teams, Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers, to develop a plan for affected players.
”It makes sense that we have to be … planning this ahead of time,” he said. ”We want to be going into that [South Africa Test] series with some blokes who’ve got some real loads.”
The Sixers’ Mitchell Starc, Brad Haddin and Ed Cowan and the Scorchers’ Mitch Johnson are the other affected players, although all besides Starc should be free to play one or two matches at the start of the season. South Africa is not immune to the effects of the fixture overlap. Test players Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Imran Tahir and J.P. Duminy are likely to be playing Twenty20 just over a week before the Test series.
Asked whether he would consider asking the Sixers and Scorchers to release players for the benefit of the Test team, Howard replied: ”I’m not going to be as restrictive as that at the moment.”
He said he believed batsmen and wicketkeepers were capable of changing from one format to another at short notice without hindrance, citing David Warner scoring Big Bash League and Test centuries within a week last summer. But he acknowledged the contrast was more significant for bowlers.
As a result, Howard is formulating tougher training regimens for the likes of Cummins, Starc and Watson during the Champions League period with Sixers boss Stuart Clark, Scorchers assistant coach Adam Griffith and part-time selector Andy Bichel, who will be at the tournament as bowling coach of Chennai Super Kings.
”Our planning for this period is important,” he said. ”Our bowlers are younger than their bowlers, so we have to be able to be far more on the front foot in building their capabilities in the lead-up to that [Gabba] game.
”There’s a fair bit of science around the bowling loads. We have to make sure they’ve got enough bowling under their belts … in training but also playing. You bowl faster in games, there’s a natural [increase in] intensity.”
Howard said he would also seek to ensure Cowan, a depth player last season for the Sixers, was not pulled out of early rounds of the shield to be taken to South Africa simply as a back-up player at the Champions League.
”We want him playing cricket,” Howard said of the developing Test opener.”
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