The images of the eyebrow raising pitch preparation for the series-opener between India and Australia were probably enough to spook the visitors.
In what could be termed as gamesmanship from the hosts, or "pitch doctoring" to others, ground staff at Nagpur’s VCA Stadium were tailoring the surface in an apparent bid to help India gain an advantage ahead of the first Test starting on Thursday.
Already facing the toughest challenge in cricket, with India having not lost a home Test series in a decade, Australia’s task appears even more daunting on a surface expected to spin heavily.
But this Australian team, increasingly moulded in composed skipper Pat Cummins’ image, might not be rattled so easily unlike previous agitated sides.
“There potentially may be a fair bit of rough out there. That’s just something we’ve got to embrace,” Cummins told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be challenging at times. Our batters relish the chance to problem solve on their feet.”
Even though an experienced Australia have sought a more sedate approach, in a contrast to the macho image they seemingly relished before the ball-tampering scandal , there is the possibility that this series could spiral into the tempestuous contest from four years ago when the visitors unexpectedly almost won in India.
Australia will need to be remarkably resilient for the duration of the four-match series if they are to claim what would be arguably their greatest triumph in decades. It would be better than their drought-breaking win in India in 2004 when Australia were amid a golden generation and exceed beating waning power West Indies in 1995.
It looms as the last chance for great batters David Warner and Steve Smith to win in India along with possibly several others. Australia might not get a better opportunity with this in-form team arguably their best since the heyday of the 2000s.
Injuries, however, have struck at the worst juncture for a team that had been remarkably stable. Quicks Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc won’t play in Nagpur but the biggest blow is losing emerging allrounder Cameron Green, whose absence will rob them of invaluable flexibility.
This likely spin-friendly surface in Nagpur is set to expose Australia’s biggest flaw of spin-bowling depth behind frontliner Nathan Lyon.
Uncapped offspinner Todd Murphy is set to be handed a debut in the harshest possible initiation, while spinning allrounder Ashton Agar could form part of a rare three-pronged spin attack for Australia even though he boasts a mediocre red ball record.
“He’s been bowling beautifully in the nets over here. He’s started really well for Victoria in first-class cricket,” Cummins said of 22-year-old Murphy as he confirmed that Australia would not name their final line-up until the toss.
“If he got the nod, he’s got Nathan Lyon down the other end that he can work with. He’s ready … whoever we pick is 100 per cent ready to go.”
Even though Australia will be shorthanded, they face an Indian team without several stars including quick Jasprit Bumrah and wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant, who have both thwarted them in recent series.
There is a sheen of vulnerability about India although the resurgence of superstar Virat Kohli, who has had mixed fortunes against Australia over many feisty battles, should instil confidence that their incredible home record can continue.
It if doesn’t then Australia might just be able to seize an opening in a step towards climbing the the biggest mountain in Test cricket and claiming its biggest prize – yes, bigger than the World Test Championship.
A triumph in the harshest possible terrain would, surely, thrust calm skipper Cummins, who unexpectedly took the captaincy reins just over a year ago, into unbridled jubilation.
- McCullum leaves his mark on cricket after 101 tests for NZ
- 12 wickets fall on 1st day of 1st day-night cricket test
- Wicketkeeper Wade not wanted by Australia at World
- Australia wins 1st day-night test by 3 wickets v New Zealand
- New Zealand 74-3 vs Australia at lunch on day 1, 2
- Intensity peaking for India v Australia World Cup semifinal
- Adapting to pink ball only challenge in Day/Night Test: Cheteshwar Pujara
- 5 Players to watch at the Cricket World Cup
- England takes on SA without spearhead Anderson in 1st test
- Australia, New Zealand ready for 1st day-night test match
- Amla says Nagpur pitch ‘probably toughest’ he has played on
- W Indies out for 271 at tea on day 3, 1st test vs Australia
- Australia vs Sri Lanka: Warner leads Australia to T20I clean-sweep over Sri Lanka
- Kohli says India wants to be ‘ruthless’ in final test vs SA
- Australia, India face off at WT20 for semifinal spot
- Amir returns to international cricket after 5-year ban
- No extra replay for D-backs-Dodgers in Australia
- No expanded replay for D-backs-Dodgers in Australia
- Tennessee offensive line making big strides amid adversity
- Mailbag: Nick Saban’s senseless mistake blew up in Alabama’s face
Australia Face Test Cricket’s Toughest Challenge Amid Indian Gamesmanship have 812 words, post on www.forbes.com at February 8, 2023. This is cached page on Business News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.