Ahead of the second ‘Boxing Day’ Test against India, the Australian team on Friday got together for a Christmas lunch.
Skipper Tim Paine, who usually does not bat and takes some catches on the eve of a Test match, followed the same routine and then had a brief meeting with the players, discussing plans for the second Test before proceeding for the Christmas lunch.
“We will have a quick chat for tomorrow. I will try and provide a bit of humour for the lads and then we head out for our Christmas Day lunch which is something Australian Test teams have done for many years which is a great day,” Paine told reporters in an interaction on the eve of the second Test.
Many of the players and staff do not have their families but Paine said it will still be a nice family affair in times of Covid-19 restrictions.
“I think half of our guys have got families out here. So it is going to be a big event with plenty of kids running around. It will be a bit of Christmas away from home and bit of our family feel to it and then home tonight for early night. And then we play the Test tomorrow,” he said.
The Aussie skipper admitted that things have been tough during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for those who have been on tour through the English summer as well as the Indian Premier League.
“I think it has been a bit tougher for the guys who have been through IPL and England and other series. But again we have spoken about this as a group. This is what it is going to be like for the foreseeable future. Our job as professionals is to get on with it and do the job,” said Paine.
“Very rarely in life it is smooth sailing and going exactly to plan but we realise that we are certainly more fortunate than many people out there. We are about to go into the Boxing Day Test. Whilst it is difficult to be away from family and today we have some around for Christmas makes it challenging but tomorrow we have a job to do and we are going to switch into that job and that role as professionals,” he added.
The 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman said that even though the capacity at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) would be restricted to about one-third, the team considers itself fortunate to play the Boxing Day Test.
“It is going to be different. Seeing MCG with 30,000, you would be disappointed when you turn up tomorrow again it will have a completely different feel. Victoria (the state where Melbourne is) have had the harshest lockdown than most of us. To have 30,000 people there. If you would have told us a few months ago, we wouldn’t have believed it. Yeah, we are just lucky to be playing in a Boxing Day Test at the MCG. To have 30,000 fans there is certainly better than not playing the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. So everyone’s excited. We have been around the G this week and training. Hasn’t got its usual buzz about it. But again it is a magnificent place to play cricket,” he added.
The Aussie team that went to nets on Friday was surrounded by kids and fans even though there have been restrictions due to the pandemic.
Paine, who is leading an Australian side that is changing its image following the ball-tampering scandal of 2018, said winning Test matches is part of associating with fans.
“That has been our focus for the past couple of years. To make Australians proud and to make Australians want to tune in and watch Test cricket team and enjoy it. It is something we take enormous pride in. Obviously winning is a huge priority for us and Australians love their Test team doing well and winning is no doubt a key part of it.”
The skipper is also hoping that the New Year’s Test goes ahead in Sydney as the city reels under a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
“It will be awesome. The new year’s Test in Sydney is a huge part of the Australian summer. And for our team, we have got so many players from Sydney, New South Wales. They love playing in front of their home crowd and having their families around. So hopefully they can get off the ground. They (authorities) are pushing hard behind the scenes,” he said.