The black soil pitch at the Holkar Stadium here will be viewed with some trepidation by the Australians.
The two sides of the surface — some call it business ends of the track since a majority of deliveries land there — are dry and should encourage the rampant Indian spinners. The middle portion of the surface has some grass from where Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj could get the ball to skid off the track.
Already there are ‘talks’ of a three-day Test although the appearance of the track can, on occasion, be deceptive.
Australia has to find answers and quickly. The return of the fast Mitchell Starc — the left-armer’s angle has troubled India in the past — and Cameron Green’s speed and lift could probe the Indian batting complementing the spin of Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy. And Green’s batting ability will add value to the side.
Talking about the challenges from the Australian attack brings into question whether the out-of-form K.L. Rahul deserves another go. Rahul averaged 14.25 in the two Tests in Bangladesh. And in the first two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, he has made a total of 38 runs at 12.66. The numbers are stacked against Rahul. But then, you will also have to weigh his potential. He has two Test hundreds in England, and one each in Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.
In fact, six of Rahul’s seven hundreds have been made on foreign soil. Considering his ability — this is not in question — will the team management be tempted to give him one more opportunity?
However, it is also true that Rahul, at present, has got himself into a hopeless rut. He has lacked belief, is tentative and doesn’t quite know where his next run is going to come from.
If he fails again, it could further dent his confidence and leave behind long-term scars. The wise decision would be to give him a break and allow him time to work on the chinks that have crept into his game. The smooth-stroking Shubman Gill has been in rollicking form, albeit mostly in white-ball cricket, with a 116 at the expense of Sri Lanka in the Thiruvananthapuram ODI, a monstrous 208 demolishing the New Zealand attack in the Hyderabad ODI, followed by an innings of 112 in the Indore one-dayer versus the Kiwis.
And then, Gill conjured an unbeaten 126 against New Zealand in the Twenty20 game in Ahmedabad.
High on confidence
In Test cricket too, while Rahul failed in Bangladesh, Gill came up with an innings of 110 in the series opener at Chattogram.
Gill will have confidence going into the Test with the sheer weight of international runs he has scored in recent times. Both Rahul and Gill had long nets on Monday, and the team management would do well to end the suspense on Tuesday and give time for either of the two to prepare mentally.
Truth to tell, the classy Gill deserves his chance.