Steve Smith left uncertain after bizarre Indian tactic on Nagpur pitch
Australia is still uncertain on how they will approach the first Test against India.
Australia has been left guessing on the condition of the Nagpur pitch with players greeted with a slightly greener top two than expected only days out from the first Test against India. In a huge blow to the Aussies, Cameron Green was all but ruled out of the first Test match, which is tightening the grip on the selectors.
Green's last ditch attempt bid to play in Australia's first Test is all but over with the allrounder labelled 'unlikely' to recover in time from a broken finger. The 23-year-old remained on light duties during Australia's training session at Nagpur's VCA Stadium on Tuesday.
'TIME IS RIGHT': Cricket world reacts to Aaron Finch announcement
INTERESTING: Aussies tempted to end 35-year first with Murphy call in India
Green bowled briefly on a centre wicket pitch but still appeared to be struggling after suffering a nasty broken finger during the Boxing Day Test. The allrounder's absence leaves Australia's pace option depleted.
However, the players had the first look at the Nagpur pitch on Tuesday and were greeted with a pitch that still had plenty of green on it. Nagpur has been a spinner's paradise in recent years and Australia has been tossing up whether to play two specialist spinners. And a close-up of the pitch showed some loose cracks already.
And the Australian team expect the pitch curator to make sure the wicket turns early. This has already prompted Indian batter KL Rahul to claim India could play three spinners on first inspection of the Nagpur deck.
"There will be a temptation to play three spinners, we're playing in India, there's no surprise that the pitch is going to spin," vice-captain Rahul said to reporters. "We still haven't decided on the final playing XI, there's still a couple of days left before it starts.
"It's still too early to really know what the pitch is going to do. We still have to come here on the day of the game and only then we will know what the pitch is going to (do). We can only look at it and presume it's going to play a certain way, but you never know with pitches."
Steve Smith spoke to reporters after taking a look at the pitch - with David Warner - and the vice-captain was slightly uncertain on the condition of the pitch on Day 1. However, Smith did feel that it would clearly favour the spinners with marks already showing.
"Pretty dry, particularly one end," Smith said when asked about the pitch. "I think it will take a bit of spin, particularly the left-arm spinner taking it into our left-handers. There's a section there that's quite dry.
"Other than that, I can't really get a good gauge on it. I don’t think there will be a heap of bounce in the wicket, I think it will be quite skiddy for the seamers and maybe a bit of up-and-down movement as the game goes on. The cracks felt quite loose. I'm not entirely sure – we'll wait and see."
CricBuzz reporter Bharat Sundaresan pointed out that the pitch curators were selectively watering the middle of the pitch, but leaving the end near the left-hander's leg stump dry.
The customary “this doesn’t look so bad” pitch inspection as the Aussies get their first training session in Nagpur underway #IndvAus pic.twitter.com/LaiFB7D2yl
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) February 7, 2023
This has been the trend for a while now. Selective watering. The attempt is to neutralise the back of length from quicks while maximising spin impact. But it’s not an exact science and doesn’t always work as intended!
— Anand Vasu (@anandvasu) February 7, 2023
Australia teasing two specialist spinners for Nagpur
Local media have suggested India could include all four spinners in the team for the first Test, on a wicket that famously turns. And Smith said Australia could fight fire-with-fire.
"Possibly," Smith said of partnering Nathan Lyon with either Ashton Agar, Todd Murphy or Mitchell Swepson. "If Greeny was fit, it would be definitely more of an option.
"Without him I'm not entirely sure. We've got a strategy meeting this arvo where we'll talk about what we think. Ultimately it's down to the selectors to pick the team they think is best for the surface."
Green's absence is a further blow to Australia's pace stocks, with Mitchell Starc (broken finger) and Josh Hazlewood (achilles) - who have taken 526 Test wickets between them - not playing in Nagpur. Scott Boland will almost certainly come in for his first Test outside of Australia, while speedster Lance Morris could be handed a dream debut as the only other quick outside of skipper Pat Cummins in the 18-man squad.
Starc, Hazlewood and Green will all be racing the clock to be fit for the second Test.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.