Indore Test: India eye WTC final berth while Australia seek turnaround under Steve Smith
India vs Australia, 3rd Test preview: A confident Indian side will look to seal its berth in the World Test Championship final by winning in Indore. On the other hand, Australia will seek inspiration from Steve Smith, who returns as captain due to Pat Cummins’s unavailability.
Australia will need stand-in captain Steve Smith to step up in Indore (AP Photo)
By Akshay Ramesh: The focus seems to be already on the World Test Championship final. India have one foot on the WTC final, which will be held from June 7 to 11 at the Oval in London. India needed to win the much-anticipated Border-Gavaskar Trophy either 3-0 or 3-1 to book their place in the summit clash for the second successive time.
While a 3-0 or a 3-1 scoreline was not a given for India against the World No. 1 Test side, the manner in which the visiting Australian side has crumbled against spin has given India the cushion to plan ahead. Captain Rohit Sharma, addressing the press conference on the eve of the 3rd Test in Indore, was responding to questions about the possibility of a green pitch in Ahmedabad for the 4th Test, already! Rohit stressed that the job is not done and India would be focused on getting the victory in Indore but it seems the team management has already begun thinking about plans for the WTC final. Rohit even mentioned about the idea of playing Shardul Thakur, who is not even in the squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
India are not going to be complacent but are expected to be more ruthless in the 3rd Test as they would want to get the qualification for the WTC final done in Indore and look ahead for trying out things in the 4th Test as they would have to be ready for the summit clash of the WTC, days after the completion of IPL 2023.
Captain Rohit Sharma stressed that would continue to be relentless against the Australian batters in the 3rd Test in Indore.
The pitch at the Holkar Stadium is expected to be similar to the ones in Nagpur and Delhi, assisting turn from the opening day. There were dry pitches at either end of the pitch on the eve of the 3rd Test. R Ashwin, who has picked up 18 wickets in 2 Tests in Indore, will be licking his lips to have another crack at the Australian team that seems to be mentally troubled by the spin trio of the off-spinner, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
Jadeja and Ashwin have picked up 31 of the 40 Australian wickets that have fallen so far in the first two Tests.
WILL KL RAHUL BE DROPPED?
However, India would also want their star batters to step up and deliver with the bat. The team has been heavily reliant on captain Rohit at the top and the all-rounders in R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
The likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shreyas Iyer need to step up and deliver with the bat as India look to continue their dominant run in Test cricket.
It remains to be seen if India will persist with KL Rahul despite all the outside noise around his form. The star opener has failed to repay the faith shown in him by the team management and his dropping as vice-captain after the first two Test is a sign of things to come, even though captain Rohit said it’s not. Shubman Gill is waiting in the wings and the young opener is likely to get a game in Indore.
“In this team, Axar, Jadeja and Ashwin bat in the lower order but Axar when he plays domestic cricket he bats at five. They are all quality batters. It doesn’t matter whether runs come from the top or lower order, the end result for the team is what matters.
“We are in a stage we can create that depth in our batting. Yes the runs have not come from the top order as expected but the quality they bring to the table that is what matters to us,” Rohit said on the eve of the Test.
CAN CAPTAIN SMITH INSPIRE AUSTRALIA?
On the other hand, Australia will be hoping for inspiration from stand-in captain Steve Smith. Captain Pat Cummins has flown back to Sydney to be with his ailing mother. Smith has led Australia in 30 matches and won 20 of them and he will be keen on stamping his authority once again and prove a point with his proven leadership ability.
When Australia last toured India in 2017, Smith led from the front, scoring 399 runs, including 3 hundreds. His captaincy was on point as he fought fire with fire against a Virat Kohli-led Indian side. Smith’s Australia gave India a run for their money before going down 1-2 in a hard-fought series.
Australia don’t have several of their key stars with Cummins, David Warner and Josh Hazlewood returning home due to injuries and illness.
However, the return of Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green will add a lot of balance to the depleted tourists. Starc has conceded that he is not 100 percent yet but the left-arm pacer will be raring to have a go. Starc’s ability to find reverse swing, if available, and trouble the lower-order batters is going to be key to Australia’s chances of making any comeback.
Australia are likely to stick to their combination of playing 3 spinners and Green’s availability with the ball will be a boost for the visitors.
Regardless of the team combination and all that, Australia have to find a way to deal with the Indian spin threat and Smith has a suggestion for his teammates.
“For us, it’s about sticking to our plans and methods for long periods of time. In the second innings in Delhi, a lot of us went away from our plans and got undone by them.
“We can hopefully apply pressure on the spinners and post good totals on the board. That’s key for us. Hopefully, we can put that into practice in the middle and execute under pressure,” Smith said.
Can Australia last for more than 3 days in Indore?