BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia captain Tim Paine will be watching closely when England’s test series against the West Indies starts on July 8 so he can see how cricket is played in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I'm fascinated to watch some test cricket again and to see exactly how the series is going to work, and the different things they're going to be doing," he said on a video conference on Tuesday. “It's going to be something we're watching really closely ... you want to be able to prepare yourself for what might happen."

Paine said he was not too concerned about empty grounds because he was familiar with that in club and provincial cricket only a few seasons ago.

The series will be the first major cricket since March, when the outbreak began to shutter global sports. Australia isn't sure when it will play again; its staging of the Twenty20 World Cup in October was last week described as unlikely.

The uncertainty has left the likes of Paine unsure about how much extra off-the-field work he should do. With the bank accounts of national cricket boards emptying and staff let go in the crisis, Paine joked about having to do extra throw downs during batting practice.

One thing he is sure of, though, is that if and when India arrives for a tour of Australia later this year, Virat Kohli's tourists will be facing a much tougher home team than the last series Down Under.

Paine was in charge of a team in turmoil in 2018-19 when India won a test series in Australia for the first time. He'd gone from not being in test selection calculations to being Australia's test captain in a matter of months during a turbulent time when then skipper Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were banned for 12 months following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant dominated the batting in the series as a rebuilding Australia struggled for cohesion and couldn't produce competitive totals.

“We certainly struggled a little bit last time. Sometimes you’ve got to give credit — (India) played very well," Paine said. “I’m sure we’ve learned a lot from playing them. We think we’re a better team now than we were then.

“A lot of the time in that last series, we didn’t get enough runs on the board to put them under any pressure. As good as our attack is, you still need to be scoring enough runs to win test matches. We didn’t score a lot of runs in that test series, and (yet) weren’t miles away."

Paine, who has since helped Australia overhaul India to return to No. 1 in the test cricket rankings and ushered in the reintegration of Smith and Warner to the national team, is confident with the batting depth now.

“We feel if we can get some scoreboard pressure on, and score runs we know we need to score to win test matches, that our bowling attack (won't) let us down," he said.


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