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    Test specialists may travel to Australia early

    New Delhi: India's preparation for the upcoming four-Test series in Australia is likely to begin with the team departing for Down Under in two batches, specifically the Test specialists getting a head start in acclimatizing to the overseas conditions.

    Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha and Wriddhiman Saha, not part of the ongoing ODI series against West Indies, are set to depart for Canberra on December 8 from Mumbai. The second batch will leave from Chennai on December 12, a day after the final ODI.

    "Nothing has been decided as yet and we will inform the media once it happens, but yes, the possibility of some players leaving early for Australia exists," a cricket board source told PTI.

    There has been no indication from the BCCI as to when India's captain MS Dhoni will leave - he has been rested for the first three ODIs against West Indies - but it is believed that he may join the Test specialists and certain members of the coaching staff. These include Evan Speechly, the new physio, and fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan. The coach Duncan Fletcher will stay back for the completion of the ODIs and go with the second batch, which will comprise Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Zaheer Khan (providing he proves his match fitness).

    Dhoni had earlier said that such a move, if it happens, would benefit the players to get used to the conditions in Australia ahead of a tough tour.

    "As of now nothing is concrete and if it is not concrete, I can't say anything about it. Such a decision will help the players in acclimatising to the conditions, as was the case when we went to South Africa (before the World Cup)," Dhoni had said.

    It was also announced that former India off-spinner Shivlal Yadav will accompany the team as manager for the Tests. Yadav, 54, had served as manager during the ODI leg of India's tour to England in August-September. Arshad Ayub, another former India spinner and Yadav's colleague in the Hyderabad Cricket Association, will be the manager for the tri-series that follows the four Tests.

    India's tour begins with two practice matches - from December 15-16 and from December 19-21 in Canberra against Cricket Australia Chairman's XI.

    (With inputs from PTI)