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Preview – India Vs Australia, the First Test is all ready to commence at Nagpur on 9th February. The buildup to this great series has been nothing short of controversial. Whether it may be the cricketing greats giving Australia a 2 – 1 chance against the Indians on home soil or be it constant reminders of the 36 All-Out of Team India in Australia.

The Indian Pitch Curators seemed to have taken ‘home advantage’ a bit too seriously by preparing a dry patch on the pitch which will help Ashwin and Jadeja against the left-handed Aussies. But are we Indians objecting? Absolutely Not!

A lot of chatter around the Pitch is going on, especially from the Aussie side. An Australian Broadcaster has already called it pitch-doctoring but perhaps they have forgotten their own pitch against the South Africans in their recent visit to Australia. The pitch was an absolute green top which was borderline dangerous. That pitch has been awarded a demerit point from ICC. So, why are the Aussies creating a hue and cry when India is doing things to their home advantage?

The Nagpur Pitch Controversy

There have always been spinning pitches in India, and off-late plenty of them have turned sharply from the first day of a Test Match. So, what’s different about this Nagpur pitch?

At both ends of the pitch, there are bare patches created through a combination of selective watering, selective rolling, and selective mowing. They occupy areas that roughly correspond to a spinner’s good length, and a line outside the left-handers’ off stump.

Balls landing on rougher, drier areas of a pitch usually have a greater chance of behaving inconsistently. Their behaviour is like a live snake which that is turning more or less than the batter might expect, or by bouncing higher or keeping low, or by either skidding through quicker or gripping the surface and slowing down considerably.

As the match progresses, these drier areas will experience plenty of wear and tear. Most of the bowling in Nagpur will be from right-arm bowlers delivering from over the wicket, and following through in the area that’s outside the left-hander’s off stump when the ends change.

A Nightmare for Left-Handed Batsmen

Left-hand batters are likely to find life particularly difficult in Nagpur. This will be mostly in the second innings. Left-arm orthodox spinners will be deadly as they will be landing the ball in those rough patches outside their off stump. It is important to note that the Aussies have 5 left-handed batters in their line-up. Hence, it is safe to say that the pitch will not be doing any favours to them.

Right-hand batters should face far less trouble from these bare patches, which are outside their leg stump. Ravichandran Ashwin will likely do the bulk of his bowling against Australia’s left-handers. Of his 449 wickets in Test cricket, 226 are of left-hand batters, against whom he averages an outstanding 19.45. Since his debut, no other bowler has come close to that left-hander wicket tally – Lyon is a far second with 167 at 24.11.

Confirmed Players from India

Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravinder Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj are confirmed started for the India Vs Australia First Test at Nagpur. The other four slots have competitive options available to fill all of them. Here are the choices facing India’s team management.

Shubman Gill vs SKY Selection Option

Shubman Gill and SKY are the prime candidates to replace Shreyas Iyer, and both make a strong case for selection. Gill has four hundreds, including an ODI double-ton, in his last 7 matches for Team India. It is hard to keep out someone in that kind of form.

Surya Kumar Yadav still hasn’t played Test cricket; however, he is undoubtedly one of the most skilled batsmen to be a part of Team India. Suryakumar only averages 45.93 after 74 matches in domestic games. India is probably looking at him as a potential gamechanger in low-scoring Tests on spinning pitches. In the last Ranji Trophy game, on a turning track, he played SKY scored 95 off 107 balls. If India believes that the Nagpur pitch will be a spinning one, they could well decide to utilize the SKY wildcard.

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Who is the Opener with Rohit Sharma?

Rohit Sharma is returning after missing both Tests in Bangladesh with a thumb injury, which means one of the two openers who played on there will either have to move down the order or sit out.

One of them was Shubman Gill, who scored his first Test hundred in the first Test in Chattogram. The other Opener KL Rahul, whose four innings on the Bangladesh tour were 22, 23, 10 and 2.

It would be a risky call for India to leave KL Rahul out, but it seems like the only way they can play both Shubman Gill and Surya Kumar Yadav.

Should India Go in with a Specialist Wicket – Keeper?

Rishabh Pant’s absence is the biggest gap in India’s famed line-up. In the last two years, Pant has performed two major roles for India. He’s played match-winning innings in difficult situations, against world-class bowling on tricky pitches. He’s done all this while proving himself into a great wicketkeeper.

When India chooses their keeper for Nagpur, therefore, they’ll place a lot of importance on his keeping skills, and this means KS Bharat is likely to make his Test debut.

Who will be the Third Spinning Option?

Steve Smith, in his press conference said, “It’s pretty dry. Particularly one end that I think will take a bit of spin, particularly the left-arm spinner spinning it back into our left-handers. There’s a section there that’s quite dry. Other than that, I can’t really get a good gauge on it.

“I don’t think there will be a heap of bounce in the wicket. I think for the seamers it will be quite skiddy and maybe a bit of up-and-down movement as the game goes on. The cracks felt quite loose. We’ll wait and see when we get out there.”

Who’s the first bowler you’d pick on a dry pitch promising sharp turn, with a particularly dry section made for left-arm orthodox spinners to aim at outside the left-hand batters’ off stump, against a top order packed with left-handers?

You might say Ravindra Jadeja, but if you had Axar Patel in your squad, you’d probably pick him too. But picking Axar means that Team India will not be picking Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep is widely known for confusing the batsmen. He becomes virtually unplayable at times. Leaving out Kuldeep for Axar will be a tough call for the Team Management.

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The decision could depend on India’s reading of the pitch – given what Smith said, Axar seems likelier to play. There’s a small chance that they could pick both and play four spinners and just the one quick but that will be another gamble in its own sense.

It’s a Series for the Ages

Whatever happens in the next 5 days, it is going to be one great Test Match between India and Australia. The batting skills of both sides will be tested to the brim and only those who are masters of their art will emerge victorious. It will be a test of skill, nerves and patience. It will be a start to the most awaited Test Series of 2023!

India Vs Australia First Test – Please Like and Leave Your Comments Below!

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