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CRAIG Howard relished the opportunity to again experience the obsession for cricket in India as part of his recent trip to the country.
Howard is Cricket Australia’s lead spin consultant and was a member of the coaching staff for the Australia A women’s team that has just returned from a tour to India.
The team played three one-day matches against India A, followed by three Twenty20 matches against what was a full-strength Indian team.
Australia A won the three one-day matches by 91 runs, four wickets and five wickets, while the Indians were victorious in the three T20s.
Howard – a self-confessed cricket tragic – says he was impressed by what he saw as the women’s game continues to grow from strength to strength.
“The standard of women’s cricket is going through the roof, especially the batting,” Howard said on Thursday.
“The bowling probably hasn’t quite kept up with the rate of improvement of the batting, so the next challenge for the girls is to try to challenge the batsmen with not so much pace, but with movement in the air and off the pitch and spin has a major part to play in that.
“On the last three Australian tours, 54 per cent of the overs have been bowled by spin in the women’s game, so it has a major role to play.”
His recent trip, in which he worked closely with Australia A spinners Amanda-Jade Wellington, Molly Strano and Samantha Bates, wasn’t the first time Howard has visited the cricket-mad county of India.
He was also there 25 years ago as part of an Australian Youth Tour that also included Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer, Michael Di Venuto and John Davison.
“There’s certainly a lot that has changed about India over the past 25 years,” said Howard, who played 16 first-class games as a spinner for Victoria in the 1990s.
“It was a terrific experience and we saw how far they have come in their way of life… the restaurants and cafes were unheard of 25 years ago and with the amount of skyscrapers, buildings and infrastructure in Mumbai where we were staying, you’d think you were flying into Los Angeles.
“We also went through the slums of India as well where there was something like a million people living in 1.2 square kilometers, so that was certainly an eye-opener for all of us. It’s hard to believe it’s only a couple of kilometres away from all the luxury in the centre of Mumbai.
“But that’s how India is; it still has its classes and cricket is still a religion there. It generates so much money because you’ve got a billion people where cricket is their love and it makes for an amazing place to visit.”
Howard’s trip to India has delayed his start to the Bendigo District Cricket Association with Sandhurst, who he captained to last summer’s drought-breaking flag.
He will return to the field for the Dragons in round four starting this Saturday, but has another overseas tour on the horizon.
Howard will be on the coaching staff of the Cricket Australia Under-16 tour to Dubai in January.
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