Peter Handscomb, in Bengaluru as part of the Australia A squad, is confident of tackling spin, having tried his hand at it in the past in the subcontinent too.
In 2017, Handscomb was part of Australia's Test squads that travelled to India and then Bangladesh. In the spinning conditions of both countries, Handscomb displayed glimpses of his ability to play the turning ball.
His gritty 72 not out in the third Test of the four-match series against India in Ranchi had helped Australia save the game, while his 82 in Chittagong against Bangladesh in the following series helped Australia square the two-match series.
Now, as part of the Australia A squad, Handscomb has a chance to put his name forward for selection to the Test team to tour United Arab Emirates to face Pakistan in a two-Test series in October. But Handscomb insisted that his focus was only on his current assignment.
"Took a lot of confidence from those Tests. I knew I could play spin relatively well, especially in Australia," said Handscomb. "But coming over to the subcontinent, and actually being able to put a couple of knocks together and score some runs was a nice feeling personally. It meant that I was able to have that confidence knowing that my game is good enough to stand up against some of the best bowlers in the world in tough conditions.
"I’m not thinking too much about the Test tour (Pakistan), thinking more about just getting out there and enjoying it, sort of – to use a cliché – play each ball as it comes down."
Handscomb's foundation to become a good player of spin-bowling were laid down in his backyard with his father playing the diligent coach. "My old man used to take me to the nets and just throw balls. I just had to use my feet and find a way to deal with it. So it was pretty awesome being able to do that with him. That started right from when I was about 10 to 16 or so when I stopped having him as a coach and moved on to some other people.
Handscomb went on to explain that it was in his backyard that he first learnt to use his feet to the turning ball, and that his technique was enhanced when playing for Victoria.
"I guess using my feet to spin has been a natural thing, with my old man I used to do a lot of training like that when I was younger. I was trying to figure out how to come out of my crease, but in terms of batting deep, that is something I worked on with my coach in Victoria. That seemed to work for me for a while, but I’ve got to evolve as well, even if that means I need to bat outside my crease or from the crease for certain periods, maybe go deep or forward again. I’ve got to be able to accept that and adapt."
When it comes to role models, Handscomb said he was very impressed with Ajinkya Rahane's technique. "I played in the IPL (Indian Premier League) a couple of years back with Ajinkya Rahane. I love how he plays, he has the ability to play spin off the back foot really well. I’ve watched him, had a couple of chats with him during that time, and I think he’s a quality player, and someone I’ve tried to emulate on occasions."
Handscomb feels his game has also benefitted from having Sridharan Sriram, the former India cricket, in the Australian set up. "(He) is one hell of a batter and bowler in his own right. He knows what to look for, and he’s been helping all us learn how to sweep, use our feet, play off the back foot," said Handscomb.
"He watches each batter separately, understands that we’ve all got different techniques and different ways of playing certain shots. And then he finds their strengths and tries to teach that, coach that."
While Handscomb is a more accomplished played in red-ball cricket, his limited-overs game is still in the process of getting 'refined'.
"As a white-ball player, I’m still refining my game," Handscomb explained. "I feel my role is to try and control that middle order and that’s what I’ve been doing for Victoria now for the last couple of seasons, trying to own that spot at No.4 and control the tough times against spin, and knock the ball around to ensure I’m getting singles, rotate strike and basically keep the scoreboard ticking over."
Handscomb will have the opportunity to test himself as a white-ball player in the quadrangular series, featuring India A, India B and South Africa A.
"We’re just trying to win games for Australia now. We’re not going out there with a selfish manner of just scoring runs individually," he said. "We’re going out there, everyone’s buying into the team thing, whatever the team needs. If we all do that, we’ll come away with some wins. Individually, the guys would have made some runs and got some wickets as well. That’s how they’ll get to higher honours. First and foremost, it’s team first."
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