Steve Smith speaks out over strange pitch detail ahead of fourth Test
The pitch to be used in Ahmedabad for the series finale continues to be the source of great mystery.
The Australian cricket team were greeted by a very unusual sight during their first inspection of the pitch in Ahmedabad for the fourth Test against India. Steve Smith's side arrived at Narendra Modi Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to get a look at the wicket that curators are working on for the final Test of the series, only to realise that there are actually two pitches being prepared.
A number of cricket journalists spotted the unique detail, posting photos on Twitter showing the covers on two different pitches in the centre square. Ground staff could also be seen working on both strips on Tuesday, with many left questioning the bizarre tactic.
BEST MAN: Mitchell Johnson weighs in on Steve Smith captaincy debate
'RIDICULOUS': Matthew Hayden blasts Australia over India mistake
India coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma both had lengthy inspections of the centre wicket, as did the Aussie players including stand-in skipper Smith. "I can't remember it being the case," Smith said later on Tuesday about ever not knowing which pitch he would be playing on so close to the start of a Test. It might have been a couple of (pitches) prepared maybe a bit longer out than two days but I can't remember two days."
The pitches have come under immense scrutiny so far this series, with the strip in Indore for the third Test rated 'poor' by the ICC. None of the three matches have reached the fourth day, and the three Tests so far have produced the fourth-fewest deliveries in history for a series after three games (and the second fewest since 1900). India have made no secret of their tactic to purposely roll out spin-friendly surfaces to suit their chances of toppling Australia's fragile batting unit.
But the plan backfired in the third Test in Indore, with Nathan Lyon taking eight scalps in the second innings as Australia won by nine wickets to reduce the series to 2-1 in India's favour. Spin accounted for 26 of the 31 wickets that fell at Holkar Stadium, and all three pitches so far in the series have been dry and offered plenty of turn.
But speaking before the third Test, Sharma confirmed reports that India were thinking about requesting a green top for the fourth Test in preparation for the World Test Championship final. The match will be played at Lord's in June on a surface that will do plenty for the seam bowlers and less for the spinners.
Australia have already sealed their place in the final, with India requiring one more victory to secure their spot. After retaining the Border Gavaskar trophy with victory in the second Test, India's thoughts moved to the WTC final.
"There is definitely a possibility of that, we've spoken about it," Sharma said when asked about the Ahmedabad Test being played on a green pitch. "We need to get the guys ready for it (WTC final) as well.
"That thought process is definitely there. If we do what we do here and we get the result we want, we might kick off doing something different in Ahmedabad."
India likely to go with spin-friendly pitch again
That plan may be the reason behind the two pitches being prepared in tandem for the fourth Test, with one favouring spin and the other favouring pace. However Australia's win in the third Test may have altered India's thinking significantly.
A win for India would have sealed their place in the WTC final, but the loss means they won't necessarily make it unless they can come away with victory in Ahmedabad. If Australia wins the fourth Test and Sri Lanka sweep New Zealand 2-0 in their upcoming series, Sri Lanka will make the final ahead of India.
"We want to play to our strength at home and not worry what the people outside are talking about. Our strength is spin and our batting depth," Sharma said previously, hinting that the fourth Test will again be a spinner's paradise.
"People have to play well for the game to last for five days. Games are not lasting for five days even outside India."
Keeping one’s options open. #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/V6vrLAFhcA
— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) March 7, 2023
Seems like a call over which pitch will be used for the fourth Test has not yet been made. They are covering two strips at the moment #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/DgX6YF9JXA
— Louis Cameron (@LouisDBCameron) March 7, 2023
Genuine confusion in Australian call over which pitch is being prepared at Narendra Modi Stadium pic.twitter.com/s2gzc4Z0fU
— Peter Lalor (@plalor) March 7, 2023
Can't think of too many Tests where which playing surface will be used is unknown less than 48 hours before the first ball.#INDvAUS
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) March 7, 2023
less than 48 hours before the first ball but still which playing surface will be used is unknown
— Md Asiqul Islam 🇧🇩 (@MdAsiqulIslam6) March 7, 2023
Rohit Sharma checking the Ahmedabad pitch for #IndvsAus Fourth Test - looked unhappy and had long discussion with pitch curator.#BGT2023 pic.twitter.com/WCJWWbYe2p
— Dr. Cric Point 🏏 (@drcricpoint) March 7, 2023
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.