India's move to block Australia as second Test hit by fresh pitch storm
The second Test between Australia and India has been hit by more dramas surrounding the pitch.
Groundstaff at Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi have reportedly attempted to ban Australian media from taking photos of the pitch ahead of the second Test against India. Controversy erupted over the pitch used for the first Test in Delhi when it appeared as though groundsmen hadn't watered a section outside the off-stump of left-handed batters - a move that appeared to be aimed at hindering Aussie lefties like David Warner and Usman Khawaja.
And fresh controversy erupted on Wednesday over the pitch for the second Test when groundstaff in Delhi apparently attempted to prevent the media from getting a good look at the strip set to be used in Delhi. According to The Age, officials at Arun Jaitley Stadium told journalists they couldn't get within 30 metres of the pitch on Wednesday, before ordering them all the way back to the boundary.
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According to the report, groundstaff wrongly accused one journalist of posting photos of the pitch for the first Test on social media and sparking the storm that ensued last week. In the end, the groundstaff's attempts to guard the surface proved fruitless, with photographers and journalists able to take clear images from high up in the grandstand.
Australia were thrashed by an innings and 132 runs in the first Test as Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja spun their magic on the dry surface in Nagpur. And if early indications are anything to go by, the surface in Delhi won't be doing the Aussies any favours either.
Aussie bowler Mitchell Starc told reporters: “It looks pretty dry. The groundsman said the nets look pretty similar and the two days we trained on were really low and took a lot of turn.
“If that’s an indication, then that’s what it’s going to be like. Having a look the last couple of days it looks like it’s prepared pretty similar as well.”
Leading cricket writer Peter Lalor reported: “Early inspection of the wicket reveals an area sedated in the middle where the seamers pitch. But a crack house being constructed on a length for the spinners.”
It’ll always be slow and low in Delhi. But there have been some decent scores here in the Ranji trophy this season. This is what the pitch looks like now…it’ll obviously look different on Friday morning. #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/05OKB7ogFC
— Nikesh Rughani (@NikeshRughani) February 15, 2023
Here's the first look of the Arun Jaitley Stadium pitch in Delhi.
Batting-friendly or bowling friendly?
📸: Bharat Sundaresan/Twitter#CricTracker #INDvAUS #BGT pic.twitter.com/CGxAZYhZPx
— CricTracker (@Cricketracker) February 15, 2023
First look at the pitch for the second Test in Delhi. #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/C2YqtwuJkv
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) February 15, 2023
Pitch for the 2nd Test between India vs Australia. pic.twitter.com/dErqVhyErT
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) February 15, 2023
Mitchell Starc 'good chance' to play in second Test
Meanwhile, Starc said on Wednesday that he's a 'good chance' of being fit for the second Test in what could be a huge boost for Australia. Starc and Cameron Green have both been sidelined since the Boxing Day Test in December with finger injuries - but are both a chance to play in Delhi.
"I'd like to be a little further down the road," Starc said. "Still a good chance so it'll come down to how it reacts by the end of (Wednesday), how the medical staff see it, how the selectors and Pat (Cummins) and Ronnie (coach Andrew McDonald) feel about it as well.
"I'll do everything I can to be fully available for selection. Then it's a discussion for the rest of the group involved."
Starc said he planned to bowl "as normal", but admitted he was struggling to get the finger back to full strength. "I don't think (batting will be an issue) so it's going to be uncomfortable but I don't think it's an issue," he said.
"I think I'll still field with a cap on (the finger), that's what I did in Melbourne (after he initially broke the finger)...I don't field myself in slip anyway."
The Aussies are considering whether to rush all-rounder Green back into the XI, but he too is still under a major cloud. It was initially feared Green would be fit to bat before he could bowl, but he was having more trouble with the latter during Wednesday's training session.
The 23-year-old looked at near-top pace when he bowled on a centre wicket pitch. However he looked decidedly shakier when it came time to bat in the nets.
"Obviously a challenge of a week but we move onto the second Test and it presents a new challenge," Starc said ahead of the match in Delhi, where India haven't lost a Test since 1987. "I'm not sure we'll see conditions change too much from last week with how the guys have discussed it. I think judging on the last couple of days the wickets out the back are similar in many ways to what the centre is."
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