Riddled with self-doubt, injuries and lack of skill-sets in dealing with spin-friendly surfaces, Australia faces a cautious and upbeat India in its bid to prevent the host from retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with two Tests to spare.
Contrary to popular perception, the second encounter of the four-Test series beginning at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Friday could last longer than the eight sessions of action seen at Nagpur.
Good news for batters
Unlike the weather in the Orange City, the cooler temperatures here carry a lot of moisture, and that could lead to the pitch staying batter-friendly for more sessions. The cool mornings and evenings, coupled with breezy afternoons suggest that the faster bowlers could also be on view longer than they did in the first Test.
Strangely, all pre-match talk is about another ‘turner’ that could see an early end, with a day or days to spare. No wonder, Australia has reason to be worried about the ‘slow and low bounce’ this ground is infamous for when facing spinners like R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
Even as the Australians prepare to deal with spin, they could also test the opposition by including a third spinner.
Left-arm spinners Ashton Agar and debutant Matthew Kuhnemann along with the off-spin of batting all-rounder Travis Head offer a choice to the visiting team to go with the duo of Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy. However, it is not an easy decision to make. The inclusion of a specialist left-arm spinner clearly weakens Australia’s batting line-up. Should Australia go with Head by dropping a batter, it will end up fielding three off-spinners. This decision clearly appears unwise.
With the team management undecided on the inclusion of the yet-to-recover duo of all-rounder Cameron Green and speedster Mitchell Starc, Australia’s options look limited.
Will he, won’t he?
Unlike Australia, India has fewer selection issues. If India decides to tinker with its winning combination, then it would be interesting to see whether coach Rahul Dravid finally takes a tough call to drop K.L. Rahul for Shubman Gill or a fit-again Shreyas Iyer nudges out Suryakumar Yadav.
Toss could be crucial since the pacers could dominate the morning session and spinners could take over as the match progresses. Since batting fourth does not appear a good choice, much will depend on how the batters perform on the first day.
The teams (from):
India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), K.L. Rahul (Vice-Capt.), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, K.S. Bharat, Ishan Kishan, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav.
Australia: Pat Cummins (Capt.), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith (Vice-Capt.), Matthew Renshaw, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Mitchell Starc, Todd Murphy, Matt Kunhemann, Lance Morris, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland and Josh Hazlewood.
Umpires: Michael Gough, Nitin Menon; TV Umpire: Richard Illingworth; Match referee: Andy Pycroft.
Match starts at 9.30 a.m.