A bemused Steve Smith has labelled suggestions from cricket observers that Australia should select three quicks and one spinner for the fourth and final Test against India 'mind-boggling'. In an unconventional turn of events, nobody knows which of two pitches prepared in Ahmedabad will actually be used for the match just a day before it is due to begin.
Confusion over which of two differently prepared pitches will be used has led to some calls for Australian selectors to back a pace-heavy team for the final Test. Smith, who is filling in as captain for the absent Pat Cummins, was left baffled by those suggestions given the dominance of spin bowling in the first three Tests of the series.
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Pointing out to reporters that the series had seen 11 innings played through just six days in the first three matches of the series, Smith said it was a confusing argument to hear. Spin has dominated the series, with Nathan Lyon taking 11 wickets in the last match in Indore alone, albeit with the benefit of a particularly bowler-friendly pitch.
Indicating that Australia were unlikely to move too far away from the side that won last time out, Smith took the rare step of addressing such commentary directly. "It's been weird with a bit of the commentary back home, people talking about us playing three quicks and one spinner," he told reporters.
"It's kind of mind-boggling to me when we look at these surfaces and we see what we've had – 11 innings in six days or something like that. Spinners have taken the bulk of the wickets and you see how difficult it is to play the spin.
"It's kind of odd to hear that kind of commentary. But we've had faith in what we're trying to do and it's good that we are able to show that we can play with three spinners and win."
Australia had only selected three spinners in a side once in the previous 17 years before the third Test, with Lyon, Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann all playing significant roles. Smith credited each of the spinners for providing the team with variation between each of their off-spin styles.
The pitch in Ahmedabad has been a subject of much discussion after the pitch in Indore was given a rating of 'poor' by the ICC. India coach Rahul Dravid suggested avoiding draws in order to maximise the chances of a run at the World Test Championship could potentially have been part of the reason for the increased spotlight on the playing surface.
"Everyone's trying to produce wickets that eventually (produce) results in these games. That's natural. You would be looking to produce wickets where the ball probably has a little more sway over the bat," he said.
Australia determined to level Border-Gavaskar series at 2-2 in finale
The opening day of the Border-Gavaskar series finale in Ahmedabad promises to be one of the most bizarre moments in cricket history when an estimated 110,000 people turn up to the stadium named after India's current prime minister. Narendra Modi will welcome Australia's leader Anthony Albanese to the colosseum named in the Indian PM's honour to celebrate "75 years of friendship through cricket".
Preparations are already well under way inside the stadium, with signs and posters of Modi and Albanese being set up everywhere, even in place of where a sight screen should be. The political pair will take part in a series of events before the Test, including being involved in an opening ceremony.
Dravid and Indian captain Rohit Sharma undertook lengthy inspections of the centre wicket when the hosts trained at the Ahmedabad ground on Tuesday. But after securing a famous nine-wicket win in Indore last week, Australia will back themselves to level the series 2-2 no matter which pitch is rolled out.
"It'd be a huge achievement for the group, or any touring team that comes here to India and wins two Test matches," Smith said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it earlier in the series and give ourselves a chance to win but to draw the series here would be a positive for this group."
Australia will likely enter the match with an unchanged XI after star quick Mitchell Starc and allrounder Cameron Green were crucial inclusions in Indore.
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