India seek to bounce back to take the series 3-1, and with it secure their berth in the ICC World Test Championship final at the Oval in June when they take on Australia in the final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. A resurgent Australia, on the other hand, will aim to square the series when the final Test begins at Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad on Thursday.
On the eve of the final Test, India captain Rohit Sharma notably hit back at Ravi Shastri’s comment about India perhaps becoming overconfident ahead of the third Test in Indore.
Sharma said, “Honestly, when you win two games, if the people outside are feeling that we are overconfident, it’s absolutely rubbish, because you want to do your best in all four games. Obviously, all these guys, when they talk about being overconfident and all that, especially the guys who are not part of the dressing room, they don’t know what kind of talk happens in the dressing room.”
“Ruthless is the word that comes to my mind, and it comes to every cricketer’s mind, being ruthless. Not to give any inch to the opposition when they are playing, especially when they’re touring abroad, and that is exactly what we have also experienced when we have toured outside. The opposition will never let you come into the game, never let you come into the series. And that is the mindset we have as well.”
India were made to pay the price for a poor start to the match after winning the toss in Indore and their batting has come under the scanner.
Sharma added, “We want to do best in all the games. If it seems overconfident or anything like that to the outsiders, it doesn’t really matter to us, because Ravi himself has been in this dressing room, and he knows what sort of mindset we have when we play. It’s about being ruthless, not being overconfident.”
Although the lower middle-order has been doing the bulk of scoring for India, Sharma admitted that India were missing Rishabh Pant, who has been a vital cog in the team’s batting order.
“He’s a big miss … Honestly, when you are speaking about (Rishabh) Pant, we all know what he can do with the bat. Also, the keeping, last couple of years he has kept so well for us on turning wickets and all of that,” Sharma said.
Although his replacement KS Bharat has not been able to create a significant impact with the bat yet, the Indian skipper remained positive about his abilities. He said, “Bharat has spent a lot of time in domestic cricket, Ranji Trophy, India A, zonals and he has scored a lot of runs. So, it will be slightly unfair to judge him on these kinds of wickets. Especially if someone is making their debut, you have got to give him enough room or innings for him to set himself up for a big score. That is important.”
He added: “When we knew that he (Pant) is not going to be available for us, that was one of the reasons we got Ishan (Kishan) in. He’s a left-hander, can play attacking (cricket). I spoke to Ishan also. When he gets his chance, he will get a number of games. We will not drop him after playing just two. It will be unfair.”
Rohit has scored the only century of this series so far, that came at the start in Nagpur, and he also spoke in some detail about the method that works for him.
Black or red soil pitch?
Meanwhile, stand-in skipper Steve Smith said Wednesday that Australia still did not know which pitch the crunch final Test against India will be played on, less than 24 hours before the match in Ahmedabad.
Two tracks had been prepared at the world’s biggest cricket stadium for the match, which will be attended by India and Australia’s prime ministers. The 33-year-old Smith, standing in as captain in place of Pat Cummins, said he could not recall ever having been in this situation so close to the start of a Test.
“There might have been a couple prepared maybe a bit longer out than two days, but I can’t remember two days out not knowing which wicket we are on,” he had said.
Smith said the groundsman told him Tuesday there was a 60 percent chance of playing on the pitch with black soil, which would likely have low bounce and be more suited to spinners. The other surface at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium is redder, so could be friendlier to batters.
Sharma and India coach Rahul Dravid each made lengthy inspections of the pitch with black soil, local media said. The International Cricket Council ruled that the surface in the third Test in Indore – won by Australia – was “poor”.
It is now expected that the black-soil pitch will be used for the match as per PTI.
Three-pronged spin attack
Despite the local Gujarat Cricket Association’s assurances of a “normal pitch”, both sides are again expected to pick three spinners. India do have the option for the wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav if they’d like to change things up.
After the tourists switched to a spin-heavy team selection from the second Test in New Delhi and handed India a nine-wicket loss in Indore in just over two days. Smith strongly hinted that Australia would play the spin trio of Nathan Lyon, Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy again, praising the “variation” that each has been able to produce.
Lyon, an off-spinner, took eight wickets to dismiss India for 163 in their second innings on a pitch that turned from day one in the third Test. Newcomer Murphy has been economical and got Virat Kohli out three times.
“(We have) had faith in what we’re trying to do and it’s good that we are able to show that we can play with three spinners and win. They are all different and all have good knowledge of the game (and a) good understanding of what they are trying to do. It’s been great to be able to play spinners and show that we can do it effectively,” said Smith.
Victory in the third Test was only Australia’s second in India since 2004 and Smith believes another to level the series would be an ideal finish. It saw them become the first team to qualify for the World Test Championship final. From Thursday onward, both India and Sri Lanka are in action separately, and over the course of next few days we could know the second team to qualify. India just need to avoid defeat whereas Sri Lanka must win both their matches in New Zealand.
“For any touring team to come here and win two Test matches will be a huge achievement. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it earlier in the series to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said.
With inputs from AFP