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India awaits Aussies after SCG Test

AAP logoAAP 1/01/2017 Rob Forsaith

Australia will unleash dual spinners and a debutant allrounder at the SCG, where their quest to conquer what is seemingly cricket's unconquerable begins in earnest.

Steve Smith's side will be gunning for a 3-0 series sweep over Pakistan in the Sydney Test that starts on Tuesday, having bettered the tourists in Brisbane and Melbourne.

But at the back of Smith's mind is a far more meaningful and imposing goal: defeating India in an upcoming four-Test tour.

That series, starting on February 23 in Pune, partly led to uncapped 24-year-old Hilton Cartwright and left-arm tweaker Steve O'Keefe being called up for this week's dead rubber.

O'Keefe and Ashton Agar, summoned to Sydney but left out of Australia's XI, are both set to feature in the India touring party alongside veteran offspinner Nathan Lyon.

"It (picking Agar in the squad) was to bring him into the mix and have those three spinners working together," skipper Smith said on Monday.

"The selectors probably have an eye on India.

"It's a very difficult place to tour and the Indians play so well in their own backyard. No doubt, that's going to be a difficult assignment."

Dubbed 'The Final Frontier' by Steve Waugh before Australia's breakthrough success in 2004, a Test tour of India is widely regarded as cricket's greatest challenge. This is especially so with Virat Kohli's team occupying top spot on the International Cricket Council's Test rankings.

Australia have won just one of their past nine Test series in India, while they have managed four victories from their past 30 Tests in India.

Australia's recent subcontinent form is also hardly cause for confidence. Last year's 3-0 series loss to Sri Lanka made it nine straight Test defeats in Asia.

The SCG pitch is fully expected to offer some assistance to Lyon and O'Keefe, who haven't played alongside each other in a home Test since the rain-ruined clash a year ago in Sydney.

But it certainly won't replicate the dusty decks on the horizon.

"We can't think too far ahead," Smith said.

"The conditions are completely different.

"There's a little bit of grass on the wicket at the moment and it can generally spin off that grass ... it's a different kind of spin that you get out here than you do in India.

"We're just focused on this Test match at this stage and, hopefully, we can have a clean sweep."

England recently managed a single draw and four losses in a five-Test series against India, giving Smith a reminder of how hard touring the subcontinent could be.

"I watched bits and pieces of that series and, as it gets closer, I'm sure I'll watch more footage to see different tactics and the way to play the game," Smith said.

"England actually played reasonably well in India."

Smith felt for paceman Jackson Bird, admitting he was "unlucky" to be dropped.

"He bowled particularly well in Melbourne, but conditions sometimes change the team," Smith said.

Pakistan have opted against naming an XI yet but the tourists are contemplating a debut for 18-year-old tweaker Mohammad Asghar.

"It all depends on the final look of the pitch," captain Misbah-ul-Haq said.

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