India’s recent win-loss ratio at home is second to none and they wouldn’t want to hamper that by going down to Australia at Ahmedabad for 2-2 result; WTC final spot also up for grabs
India’s Umesh Yadav, Cheteshwar Pujara (centre) and Kuldeep Yadav (right) at a training session at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Motera, in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
‘Friendship through 75 years of cricket’. Huge banners with this message and the photographs of the Prime Ministers of India and Australia respectively, Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese, are hard to miss throughout the drive from the city to the stadium named after the Indian PM, where the final, decisive act in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series will be played out from Thursday with the two dignitaries gracing the first morning’s proceedings.
No on-field drama
In direct contrast to flashpoints galore in previous standoffs between India and Australia, this ongoing skirmish has been remarkably incident-free, all the drama restricted to the spitting, fizzing, scooting, turning little red orb that has made batting a fiercely risk-prone proposition. Just one century and seven further knocks in excess of fifty in three full Test matches speaks to the stranglehold of the spinners in particular, Australia bouncing back from hammerings in the first two games to hit back through their tweakers, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann, in the seven-session victory in Indore.
Can’t afford to draw series
India have guaranteed themselves the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the fourth time in a row and can’t lose this series, but that’s scant consolation for a side with the most imposing home record in recent times. The Indore loss was only their second at home in six years and Rohit Sharma and his band must be hurting at having been beaten at their own game. Redemption in Ahmedabad will be sweet for more reasons than one; not only will it reiterate that the previous game was an aberration, it will also seal their place in the final of the World Test Championship, also against Australia.
It won’t come easy though, if at all. Rejuvenated by the temporary return to the helm of Steve Smith, who will again lead with Pat Cummins still in Sydney, Australia’s fightback in the third Test was in keeping with their reputation as a team that knows not what it is to roll over. They will have taken keen note of the travails of the Indian top-order, Rohit excepted, and even if the strip at the Narendra Modi Stadium won’t offer the same volatile turn as the sandpit in Indore and appears to be the best track for batting all series, they will be aware that a crisis of confidence lurks within the opposition ranks waiting to be exploited.
Rohit spoke of being ‘ruthless’ on Wednesday morning, and towards that end, he will expect his beleaguered predecessor to set the tone. Virat Kohli has been like the Curate’s egg this series, good in parts, but the drought of big scores seems unending. The scent of a contest, with so much personal pride on the line—notwithstanding the other stakes involved—was once the perfect stage to bring out the intense competitor in him. Will the world’s largest cricket stadium prove his elixir?
Consecutive home series India have won at home