Ahead of his side’s first Test against India, Australian skipper Pat Cummins noted that pitch preparation will be a factor in how his playing eleven is selected.
The first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia will take place at VCA Stadium in Nagpur from Thursday onwards.
Cummins said that he would not be revealing the final XI until the toss, but uncapped bowler Todd Murphy is close to making his Test debut and batter Peter Handscomb’s chances of being included are also increasing since Australia does not want too many left-handers on a made-to-order Nagpur pitch.
The ground staff at VCA stadium has been curating the pitch with some selective watering. The middle of the pitch and areas outside right-handers off stump were watered, but those on good length outside left-handers off stump at both ends were left bone dry. Selective mowing and brushing were also done in some areas.
“I think it is a factor over here,” he said as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
“With so much traffic from the right-handers bowling, at times there is a bit more out there for the left-handers. The Indian line-up is going to be packed full of right-handers, so I think it plays a small factor,” added the skipper.
Cummins ruled out all-rounder Cameron Green from the opener. Matt Renshaw had taken his place in Australia’s previous match, against South Africa. But bringing him here would mean having five out of the top seven batters as left-handers, who will have to deal with bone-dry area of the pitch that is likely to get chewed up. Both teams have only right-arm pacers in their attack.
Australia will be playing a four-man bowling attack in absence of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Pat Cummins and Scott Boland will be playing as quicks while Lyon will be the lead spinner. Ashton Agar and Todd Murphy are left to fight for the final spot in bowling.
“I think he would be as prepared as he could be,” Cummins said of the uncapped Murphy. “He has been bowling beautifully in the nets over here. He has started really well for Victoria in first-class cricket. If he got the nod, he’s got Nathan Lyon down the other end that he can work with; he is ready. Everyone in the squad here has had really good preparation. Whoever we pick is 100 per cent ready to go,” said Cummins.
After looking at the surface, Australia’s fear of playing two specialist offspinners and leaving Agar out against India’s largely right-hand batting line-up may have dissipated.
“It is a factor. These conditions, they really spin, so just really good bowling is what you are after, being consistent time and time again,” Cummins said. “I do not think you need to go searching for anything more; the conditions will come to you.”
“You have seen Nath (Lyon) be really, really effective over here [with] a lot of bat-pad, leg-slip catches for the right-handers. So ideally, you have got variety in any attack, but I do not think it has to be the case just for that sake.”
Cummins hopes to continue his success at winning tosses as Australia’s Test captain. But he believes toss may not be a huge factor if the surface is a raging turner.
“I think we will bat,” Cummins laughed. “I think when the conditions spin from day one, it is actually not. I think you have seen India is record. They win just as many games batting second as they do batting first. I think it can be overstated when the conditions do spin really quickly,” concluded the skipper.
Australia’s last tour of India was in 2017. India won that series 2-1.
India is the current holder of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after winning the series in Australia in 2020-21.
The series will consist of four Test matches. The series is a big one for both teams as they look to nail down a spot in the World Test Championship (WTC) final.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
India squad: (for the first two Tests) Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Suryakumar Yadav. (ANI)