Uncertainty about the type of surface that will be prepared for the series’ finale presents the BCCI with an intriguing conundrum ahead of the fourth Test between India and Australia in Ahmedabad.
A furious turner that match referee Chris Broad later called “poor” helped the visitors defeat India by nine wickets in the third Test in Indore, which was completed in less than seven sessions. On the bowler-friendly wicket, Australian spinner Nathan Lyon claimed 11 cheap wickets while neither team reached 200.
India hasn’t lost a home Test series in more than ten years, and with the series tied at 2-1, Australia has a chance to end it this week in Ahmedabad.
With its reconstruction, the largest cricket stadium in the world, Narendra Modi Stadium, has held two Test matches, both against England in 2021, with the first game ending in less than two days. As England was whipped for 112 and 81, India’s spinners caused havoc, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel taking 35 of the 40 wickets that fell. Joe Root, a former captain of England, scored 5-8 runs with his occasional off-spin.
At Ahmedabad since the year’s beginning, spinners have taken 48 Test wickets at an average of 14.64 while fast bowlers have only produced 11 dismissals at an average of 30.63.
However, the hitters dominated the most recent Ranji Trophy game at the location, which saw Railways win the toss and score 508 in the first innings.
In order to aid in preparations for the World Test Championship Final, which will take place in London, Indian captain Rohit Sharma suggested last week that the Ahmedabad pitch might be a green seamer. However, in light of Australia’s crushing victory in Indore, India may decide to play it safe and prepare a deck that favours their elite spinners.
India, who must win in Ahmedabad in order to go to the World Test Championship final, must choose between two unfavourable pitches: a furious turner, which would benefit Lyon and his spinning allies, and a flat deck, which would favour Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.
According to a local report, the Gujarat Cricket Association is still awaiting instruction from the BCCI on what sort of pitch to prepare.
“We haven’t received any instructions from the Indian team management and our local curators are preparing a normal track, as we have always done through the season,” a state association source told PTI.
“Obviously, (over the) last few days the BCCI’s grounds and pitches committee instruct the local curator … but, certainly, from our end, our endeavour is to produce a good Test match pitch.”
Australia might be tempted to select an additional pace bowler for the series decider in the capital of Gujarat depending on the conditions.
With roughly 132,000 seats, Narendra Modi Stadium—named after the Indian Prime Minister two years ago—is one-third bigger than the MCG.
The Ahmedabad Test may be overshadowed by political gimmicks because Modi and Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, will visit day one of the match and take part in the opening ceremony before the first ball.
According to local reports, about 85,000 seats for day one of the Test have been reserved for students and families in honour of Modi’s visit, while a large portion of the venue will be empty due to security protocols. Who says politics should stay out of sport?
Australian cricket fans touring India initially struggled to book tickets for the first day of the Test, but a small number of seats were thankfully made available over the weekend.
An estimated 100,000 spectators are expected to fill Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday, putting the MCG’s record of 91,112 for the most Test cricket attendance on a single day in threat.
The majority of the 85,000 “VIPs” are anticipated to watch the first hour of play before departing for other obligations, as are Modi and Albanese. It can result in the strange situation where the arena is jam-packed for the opening ball yet almost empty for the closing ceremony.
“I think we are expecting a big (crowd), at least on the first day, and the talk has been excitement around actually playing a Test in front of that, then actually just the logistics of it on the field – how you deal with reviews, referrals, all that sort of stuff, because the noise will play a huge part in that,” Australian spin coach Daniel Vettori said.
“Guys will be trying to be as pragmatic as possible around how it’s actually going to play out, as well as being pretty excited about the size of the crowd.”
The first ball of the fourth Test match between India and Australia is scheduled to be bowled at 3 p.m. AEDT on Thursday at Narendra Modi Stadium.
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