Mumbai: Their focus on the number one spot up for grabs in the upcoming ODI series against India, Australian captain George Bailey and coach Steve Rixon said the visitors are no longer intimidated by the sub-continental conditions courtesy the exposure they have got through the IPL here. The Aussies will start the tour with a one-off Twenty20 match in Rajkot on October 10 followed by seven ODIs.
"If you look at the tournament, it is not just a tournament but a chance to be number 1 in the world in one of the three formats," said Rixon at the first media conference of the squad after its arrival here on Saturday night. "So, it is very important to the players, the coaching staff and Cricket Australia. At the end of the day, we want to sit back and want to be part of the number one side," he added.
If Australia win the series handsomely, they will go over India to become the world's no.1 ranked ODI team and if the hosts win they will retain their top spot.
Going into the intense contest against India, both Rixon and team captain George Bailey saw the advantage of having quite a few squad members with the Champions League Twenty20 exposure.
"Yes, we do know a few players that is certainly I think one of the great things about the IPL, over the years. We have played at a lot of grounds that we are about to play at. Most of our players have played with and against a lot of Indian players, vice-versa they have played with a lot of us," said Bailey who is leading the squad in the absence of injured regular ODI captain Michael Clarke.
Rixon, who has been part of the support staff of Chennai Super Kings as its fielding coach, agreed with his captain, adding the squad still had plenty of work to do to get the better of the ICC World Cup and Champions Trophy holders. "It's all very well knowing the players but also knowing that you combat those players having just spent time in the Champions League. To see the likes of Suresh Raina, the way he is playing, the likes of Dhoni, the way he is playing, and even to a degree [Ravichandran] Ashwin, you still have to be able to combat that. We still have got plenty of homework to do but the advantage as George rightfully said, we get to see them regularly now. We actually have more chance combating them," he said.
Rixon said the plus point for his team is that five of the players figured for their respective franchises in yesterday's CLT20 final between eventual winners and IPL champions Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. "We have been fortunate to have five [players] in the [CLT20] final, so to us, we are in a reasonable position as well. End result is, the guys who haven't been playing a lot of cricket, get them up to speed for the remaining, leading up to the T20 and the one-dayers. Once that happens, it's an even contest," he said.
Both Rixon and Bailey rued the absence of Michael Clarke, who was ruled out of the tour due to his back problem. "You take Dhoni out, that probably answers your question," said Rixon candidly, while Bailey said, "We would love to have Michael here."
Bailey, however, brushed aside the criticism of former Australia captain Ian Chappell that the series was ill-timed as it was being held just ahead of the Ashes series against England. "I don't think his comments have any bearing on the team. I don't think he has been involved with the Australian cricket team in a very, very long time. I don't think his comments have any particular relevance to this group at all," the Aussie captain said.
"Certainly as far as this group goes, there is more of a focus on the 2015 World Cup [to be jointly hosted by his country and New Zealand]," said the Tasmanian.
The 31-year-old visiting skipper also said the way the Australians bounced back to win the ODI series in England after the disappointing display in the Ashes and in the preceding Champions Trophy was a big confidence booster.
"It was great. It was disappointing how we played in the Champions Trophy. India played so well there and we felt the rain had robbed us of a legitimate chance to have a crack at that tournament. We played some really good one-day cricket to finish off the summer in Australia against the West Indies. So we were feeling pretty confident and it was nice to come across to England on the back of the disappointing Ashes, to see the guys who had been involved in the series to bounce back and perform really strongly," he said.
Conceding that the current Australian team did not indulge in making predictions ahead of the series like the ones that had the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in them, Bailey said his team did not have superstars like the two all-time greats. "We are very polite. I certainly think for Glenn and Shane, it was a way to challenge themselves. That was the way they got themselves fired up for the series.
"I think this group doesn't need to do that. We have got enough challenges. We probably don't have the superstars of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. We don't rely heavily on any one or two players," Bailey said.
The Australia captain said past good record of the Aussies in India in ODIs - they won 4-2 on two previous occasions before losing 0-1 in the rain-affected series in 2010-11 - did not count for much as the team composition was different along with other variables. "I find it hard to compare because the conditions change. A lot of things are variable. The game has changed. We have got guys playing T20 on a regular basis now. Back then it wasn't so prevalent."