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Old October 31, 2002, 09:17 PM
Sham Sham is offline
Cricket Legend
Join Date: October 15, 2002
Location: London, UK
Posts: 3,070
Default Insight into Aussie Preparation

Keeping one step beyond

by Shane Warne

There is something special about an Ashes series, but that does not mean that we will be altering our preparations ahead of the first Test. Although England have our absolute respect, we do not intend to spend hours and hours dissecting their squad stroke by stroke and ball by ball.
It comes down to this: we are more concerned with making sure that our own game is spot-on than worrying about the opposition. In any case there is so much international cricket these days that we generally know about most players. The only ones we really discuss are the newcomers.

We have a pretty detailed idea of most of the England squad, even those who have not played against us. Jimmy Maher, from our one-day side, can tell us about Simon Jones through his Glamorgan connection, and a lot of us will have come across Steve Harmison from Durham. Darren Lehmann will know Richard Dawson from Yorkshire, whose spin could easily come into play at Sydney and Adelaide.

In some cases we might get hold of some video footage of a batsman or a bowler. Steve Waugh, as captain, will introduce this. He will ask for a few opinions and then have the final say on strategy. In my view, meetings can go on a bit too long. If you are not careful you go round and round the houses before deciding to bowl in the corridor and aim to hit the top of off stump on the basis that it has been successful for 125 years in Tests.

I donít want this to sound vague because every bowler has to have a plan, but he also has to think on his feet. No number of hours watching videos provides a true substitute for actually being in the middle and working out a batsmanís game first hand, the quicker the better.

If it is somebody fresh, I will try to work him around the crease. I can bowl outside leg stump to see if he sweeps and outside off to see if he is prepared to drive. Sometimes it takes an innings, sometimes a couple of games, to get to know a batsman, get inside his mind and make an educated guess about how he will try to play my next ball.

A good example about the way you can learn came from our recent games against Pakistan. They decided to go for a very inexperienced top order and, after a close first game in Colombo, we dismissed them for 59 and 53 in the second in Sharjah.

Even at Colombo I made a slight change to good purpose. Faisal Iqbal hit five or six fours when he tried to attack me. I had a think overnight, deciding to post a deep mid-off. He duly got out to my first ball next day. Faisal hadnít become any less a batsman during his nightís sleep. And Pakistan ó as we all know ó are a better side than they showed a week later. In those cases, we simply managed to get a step ahead.

When I first came into the Australia side in 1991-92 we spent far longer talking about the other side before matches. For a kid who was still pretty raw in first-class cricket, let alone Tests, the sheer amount of detail came as a real eye-opener. Clearly, I didnít take much in ó my debut figures were one for 150.

There have been some weird and wonderful initiatives since. A few years ago we would take it in turns to write a poem, which we then read out before the start of a match. The idea was to bond us closer together. On the last tour to England in 2001 we formed a small, tactical group which met to conjure up ideas we could then put to the main team meeting.

Our schedule means that we have little time ahead of Brisbane. After Pakistan we go back to our state sides and will probably not meet again until four or five days before the first Test. With some cricket under our belts, fitness should be in order.

I donít think there are any secrets about what happens at our camps. We will spend a lot of time practising our fielding, for example, an area in which we really pride ourselves. Looking at the make-up of the England squad, with their fast bowlers, I guess we might do a bit more than usual on playing the short ball and the yorker. Then there are the time-consuming jobs which people might take for granted. We all have commitments to sponsors so this is the time to check that our kit is in order. We sign dozens, probably hundreds, of bats. There are dress codes to sort out and media duties.

All of this is important, but needs to be out of the way so we can concentrate on the cricket itself.

We all take personal responsibility to work on individual aspects to our game. Some of us might need a few extra slip catches or another session in the nets to work on a specific area which isnít quite 100 per cent. There must be ó and will be ó a purpose to everything we do.

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