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Intense tour game awaits India Test stars

Travis Head is keen to put India’s red-ball stars under the pump before a ball is bowled in the four-Test series as he prepares to captain an Australia A side featuring Tim Paine.

Test squad members Head, Paine, Joe Burns, Will Pucovski, Cameron Green, James Pattinson and Michael Neser headline the XI that will face India A in a three-day clash that begins on Sunday.

Virat Kohli and Twenty20 teammates will be absent from the tune-up at Sydney’s Drummoyne Oval.

But Cheteshwar Pujara, man of the series during India’s productive previous tour of Australia, veteran offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane are some of the big names set to be in action.

Tour games are often low-key affairs lacking intensity but that is unlikely to be the case in coming days, especially given it forms a key part of Australia’s preparation for the first Test.

“The one-day team had an exceptionally good start against India, put some wins on the board and put them under pressure,” Head told reporters.

“It’s a great opportunity with the red ball, we can start that campaign in the same manner.

“We want to start putting the Indian guys under pressure.”

National selectors opted for a sole Test vice-captain this summer, entrusting Pat Cummins and demoting Head in the process.

But Head’s appointment as Australia A skipper suggests the 26-year-old’s leadership is still highly regarded by Trevor Hohns’ panel.

“There was no real reflection on anything I’d done wrong, I had really good feedback (from Hohns) on the way I’m developing in that space,” he said.

“I was very privileged to get that opportunity in the first place, having not played a great deal of Test cricket.

“To be vice-captain of an Ashes series was a massive opportunity and something I learned a lot from.

“Very fortunate I have Painey on my side (for this game). I have chatted to him the last few days, there’s a lot of leadership around this Australia A team.”

Head argued he is a much-improved batsman compared to his first Test summer, when India’s bowlers created all sorts of headaches for Australia’s top six.

“You take confidence from everything you’ve done,” he said, having scored two impressive centuries in the Sheffield Shield hub.

“They have an unbelievable bowling attack. I’m looking forward to that test again.”

Australia A 13-man squad: Joe Burns, Will Pucovski, Marcus Harris, Travis Head (capt), Cameron Green, Nic Maddinson, Tim Paine, Will Sutherland, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Mark Steketee, Harry Conway.

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