Nagpur pitch kicks up a storm before India-Australia Test series opener

Border-Gavaskar Trophy begins at VCA Stadium on Thursday

India captain Rohit Sharma and his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur on the eve of the first Test. Getty
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A ball has yet to be bowled in the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test series between India and Australia but the playing surface is already a big talking point ahead of the first Test in Nagpur.

The top two ranked Test teams will lock horns at the VCA Stadium from Thursday, with the No 1 Test ranking and a spot in the World Cup Championships final both on the line.

India have won the last three series, two of them in Australia. They last lost a Test series at home to England in 2012 and, before that, to the Aussies in 2004. And just to make the most of their home advantage, the Indians have rolled out a particularly dry surface that is expected to aid spinners early on.

There were murmurs about the pitch being selectively watered and prepared specifically for the abundance of left-handed batsmen in the Australian team, thus providing even more ammunition for India off-spin ace Ravichandran Ashwin.

However, captains of both the teams said the focus of players is on the match and not other factors.

"That's part of the challenge of playing away," said Australia captain Pat Cummins, whose team just need to avoid a 4-0 whitewash to make the final of the World Test Championship in June.

"Home teams want to win at home. In Australia, we're lucky we've normally got pace and bounce.

"Home match advantage, I don’t think it's a terrible thing. It's another challenge and makes touring over here even harder when you know the conditions are custom-made for them."

Cummins said all-rounder Cameron Green, recovering from a finger injury, will miss the series opener, along with fellow pacers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.

India captain Rohit Sharma said that the conditions will be the same for both teams and it is mainly about skill.

"You just need to focus on the cricket that will be played on the next five days, and not worry too much about the pitch," Sharma said.

"All 22 players who will be playing here are quality cricketers. You just got to come out and play good cricket to win the game, as simple as that.

"When the ball spins a lot, your method of scoring runs becomes very important. You'll have to rotate strike, and see how can you score runs – sweep, reverse sweep, using your feet."

The Indians are certain to go in with three spinners; at least two from Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav, to go with Ashwin. The other selection headache will be bringing in either one or both of Shubman Gill and Suryakumar Yadav, in case they go with KS Bharat as the wicketkeeper following Rishabh Pant's accident.

Updated: February 08, 2023, 12:54 PM