Pitch talk surrounds resumption of intriguing rivalry


Pitch talk surrounds resumption of intriguing rivalry

by crickethighlights.one Staff • Published on Wed, Feb 8, 2023

Marnus Labuschagne, the No. 1 Test batter in the world, is relishing the battle he’s set to have against R Ashwin in India. He elaborates in detail on how he would approach batting in India, against their various spinners and particularly against Ashwin. In this interview, while detailing his plans, Labuschagne also gives away that it’ll hinge on putting the pressure back on Ashwin and getting the run rate up.

India, in the absence of Rishabh Pant, who has in the recent past been their No. 1 Test batter, are not ruling out the possibility of a left-field selection in Suryakumar Yadav. Skipper Rohit Sharma has said that they’re mulling the option alongside the in-form Shubman Gill. “Gill has been in supreme form over the last three to four months, lots of big hundreds as well. On the other hand, Surya as well has shown what he is capable of in T20 cricket and what sort of game he can bring to Test cricket as well,” he said a day ahead of the start of the Test.

Both statements are instructive on how the teams are thinking even before a ball has been bowled. The pitches, at least the Nagpur one to start with, are expected to take turn from early in the game. And as scoring runs are going to prove difficult for both sets of batters, there are early indications that they’d be taking a leaf out of England’s book and look to play aggressive cricket at least in some phases of the game. If the pitches play to expectation and the games are low-scoring, a quick cameo here or there could well turn out to be vital.

While both captains preferred to talk up a game that takes the pitch out of the equation, the selection calls and thereby their approach, hinges totally on how the surface is made to order. Australia are ready to counter India’s ploys against their left-handers by including a right-hander in Peter Handscomb even as it helps with what could be theirbiggest challenge in India – of negating India’s big strength at home. Likewise India’s calls with regard to their third spin option and choice of wicketkeeper rest on the pitch and its conditions. ‘Horses for courses” was how Rohit Sharma wanted to make the selection calls.

The start of another India home series begins thus with the pitch becoming the centre of attention. The series is also likely to carry a bit of an edge with India relying on the results to go their way to make it to the final of the World Test championship, where they could come up against Australia again. For the visitors, it’s a chance to get even, having lost at home twice to India and with improved shows in the subcontinent against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they’d be gung-ho about their prospects even if the challenges are fiery.

When:Thursday, February 9 at 09:30 AM IST

Where: Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur

What to expect: As per on-ground reports, the pitch is being prepared to aid turn unsurprisingly. So both teams would be shaping their sides in a bid to exploit and counter the challenges it could offer.

Bharat SundaresanBharat Sundaresan
@beastieboy07FollowInteresting treatment of the pitch in Nagpur. The groundstaff watered the entire centre of the surface & only the length areas outside the left-hander’s leg stump & then rolled only the centre, stopping short every time they got to the good length areas at both ends #IndvAus
07 Feb 2023
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Team News

India:There have been a few question marks leading up to finalizing the eleven for India, with the primary one turning out to be that of the No. 5 spot left vacant by the injured Shreyas Iyer. The contenders for the spot include the in-form Shubman Gill, who has previously been looked at as just an opener by the national side. The other is Suryakumar Yadav, whose attacking instincts in white-ball cricket at the international level could force India to take a punt, in the absence of Rishabh Pant’s aggressive methods in the middle order. The other two spots up for discussion include that of the wicket-keeper, with KS Bharat likely to get the nod ahead of Ishan Kishan as should Axar Patel for the third spinner’s spot.

Probable XI:KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav/Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wk), R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammad Siraj

Australia:There are a number of reasons for Australia to try and avoid stacking up too many left-handers in their playing eleven. While four in the top seven are a shoo-in, they could avoid adding a fifth to the mix by picking Peter Handscomb over Matt Renshaw.

Probable XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb/Matt Renshaw, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon

Did you know

– In the last ten years, India have won each of the 15 series they have played at home. They have lost only two Tests in this period, one of which came against Australia in Pune.

– R Ashwin is one wicket away from becoming the ninth bowler to pick 450 Test wickets. If he gets there in Nagpur, he will be the second quickest to the milestone behind Muralitharan who got there in 80 Tests.

– Since January 2021, Virat Kohli averages 25.67 against spin for 12 dismissals. Against off-spin, he has been dismissed six times at an average of 20.50.

What they said:

Speaking about the doctored wicket, you’ve got to focus on the cricket that is going to be played over the next five days and not worry too much about the pitch. The last series we played here, a lot was spoken about the pitch, all 22 cricketers going to play are quality cricketers so not to worry too much about how the pitch is going to be like, how much is it turning, how much is it seaming. You’ve got to just come out and play good cricket and win the game, as simple as that – Rohit Sharma wants little to do with the talk about the pitch

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