Australia are leaving no stone unturned as they prepare for the all-important four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India, starting in Nagpur from February 9.
With the Test pitches expected to be rank turners, Australia’s batters have been putting in extra hours honing their skills against spin.
And one aspect which caught everyone’s attention on the first day of the Australian training session in India was the presence of a ‘Ravichandran Ashwin duplicate’ at the KSCA stadium in Alur on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Baroda off-spinner Mahesh Pithiya, whose bowling style is quite similar to Ravichandran Ashwin, has flown to Bengaluru for the visitors’ four-day training camp in Bengaluru after Australia’s coaching staff had seen his clips on Instagram.
‘Of all the stops Australia have pulled out to prepare for their trip to India, the most noticeable at their Test tour’s first training session was the presence of a Ravichandran Ashwin duplicate,’ said a report in cricket.com.au.
‘Pritesh Joshi, who was also at training on Thursday giving throwdowns with the ‘side-arm’ aid, was the one who first brought Pithiya to the attention of Assistant Coach Andre Borovec, while Joshi also helped arrange for Mehrotra Shashank, a left-arm spinner who played first-class cricket for Hyderabad, to attend the camp.
‘The Aussie batters were also tested out by a self-described “throwdown specialist” Khaleel Shariff, who has worked with numerous Indian Premier League teams and was known to coach Andrew McDonald and Vettori from their time at Royal Challengers Bangalore,’ cricket.com.au added.
Pithiya trained with Yusuf and Irfan Pathan at their academy in Vadodara before he made his first-class debut for Baroda in December, picking up eight wickets in four Ranji Trophy matches, while scoring 116 runs with a best of 52.
The 21 year old is staying in the Australian team hotel in Bengaluru and travels in the team bus with the Test cricketers for the training sessions, getting a first hand opportunity to interact with world class cricketers like Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, David Warner and Steve Smith among others.
Pithiya, who grew up in Junagadh, didn’t have a television set at his home which meant he had not seen Ashwin bowl till he was around 11. When he finally saw the off-spinner bowl in the home series against the West Indies in 2013, he was pleasantly surprised to find out that his action was similar to one of India’s best spinners in Test cricket and whom he has idolised since then.
People who had seen him bowling had started calling him ‘Ashwin’, he said.
‘I was rarely called by my original name. It was always Ashwin,’ Pithiya told Cricbuzz.
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