Leading into the Ranchi Test the talk was about everything – the DRS controversy that emerged at the end of the Bengaluru Test, the pitch that bore a darker look hasn’t gone down well with Steve Smith and the Australian media and a couple of major injuries have pushed Australia on the back foot. Team India after lagging far behind in the Pune game and the first day of the second Test made a remarkable comeback to seal the match.
Virat Kohli’s aggression, his team’s verbal strategy, and mocking tactics gave his team the intent to return to dominating ways and play like they had done for the entire home season. Another key aspect was the pitch turning slow and bouncing low. Australia and their spinners were able to adapt to the square turn in Pune and Nathan Lyon exploited the bounce with top spin on the first morning in Bangalore but as the wicket got slower, started to break and the bounce went low it turned into an adversity.
Coming into the determining Test of the series Australia have two slots to fill with Mitchell Marsh and Starc flying back home with injuries while India would also want to make a couple of changes in the XI.
Focus will be on-
Pitch – The focus has been on the pitch while it is expected to turn square like Pune, there are three surfaces ready for the game and the curator said he can switch to the stepney wickets if the one that is used for the game behaves odd. The nature of the Ranchi wicket is little know – it will be hosting its first ever Test match, the clay used is dark, will definitely turn but despite the absence of grass curator SB Singh is certain it will hold together for the entire duration.
Virat Kohli – The Indian skipper has successfully motivated his team to accept their flaws, overcome them and show the opposition they make the rules when playing in their backyard. But he would certainly want to get among the runs. After the end of the second Test, he said that the Aussies focused on him and others stepping up caught them off guard and worked in the favor of his team. But 0, 13, 12 and 15 aren’t the scores you expect from the best batsman in the world and someone who constantly wishes to up his own game. Once he returns to the thick of runs the Aussies will find it tougher to deal with the Indian batting.
Pat Cummins – The right-arm pacer made his Test debut as an 18-year-old young, raw fast bowler who showed immense promise but constant injuries resulted in that match being the only he has featured in since then. Mitchell Starc’s stress fracture prompted the selectors to fly Cummins to India. He has the pace and the ability to trouble the batsmen as well as Starc but will be interesting to see how well he sustains himself in the hot Indian conditions.
Indian opener Murali Vijay who missed out on the previous Test due to a shoulder injury has been deemed fit for the game and will return to replace Abhinav Mukund who did little in the opportunity he got after 6 years. Considering that the pitch will extensively assist spin Virat would also want to add the third spinner in Jayant Yadav back in the squad but that would be at the cost of a weaker batting line-up which was exposed in Pune. It is a decision they will probably take right before the toss after a final look at the wicket.
KL Rahul’s form has to be acknowledged while no other batsman has been equally consistent he has scored the bulk of the runs in the top order. Ajinkya Rahane’s half century would have not only given him the required confidence but also eased the pressure on Virat and Anil Kumble.
Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Karun Nair/Jayant Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma
Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell? The question has been widely discussed right through the week while one is a stable batsman and a seam bowler, the other is an explosive batter and bowls spin. Will Australia want to strengthen their spin bowling department?
Both Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe have done well to make the best out of what has been offered from the pitch using their own unique skills and though it looks remote a part-time spinner can capitalize if the batsmen drop guard.
Cummins who has been added in the team has announced his willingness to play the match and extra pace gives him an edge over Jackson Bird who will be easier to negotiate for the Indian batsmen once the ball isn’t doing much laterally which is for the most part of the match.
Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Steve Smith (C), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade (wk), Marcus Stoinis/Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins
1 – JSCA Stadium in Ranchi will host its maiden Test match; it will thus become the 26th venue to host a Test match in India.
64 – If Pat Cummins starts for Australia tomorrow he will feature in a match after a gap of 64 Tests; the 5th longest gap for an Australian between two Tests.
76 – Australian captain Steve Smith is 76 runs short of 5000 Test runs.
800 – The Ranchi Test will be Australia’s 800th Test appearance, a day after the 140th anniversary of the inaugural Test match in 1877.