IND vs AUS: In the Ahmedabad Test, India will concentrate on batting against spin.
In the absence of regular skipper Pat Cummins, Steve Smith will lead Australia in the fourth Test
India's batting will be scrutinised as the Rohit Sharma-led side looks to win the Ahmedabad Test and advance to their second World Test Championship final in a row when they face Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
For the hosts, the equation remains simple. To qualify for the summit WTC clash in June, win the series 3-1 and do not rely on the outcome of Sri Lanka's away rubber in New Zealand. After both sides' spinners held their ground on designer tracks that were borderline under-prepared, the firmness and even bounce on offer at Motera should provide some welcome relief to the batters.
THE TROUBLE IN INDIA Virat Kohli (111), and Cheteshwar Pujara (98), for example, would like to spend enough time in the 22-yard zone to make the long walk back seem less difficult. The fact that Axar Patel (185) is India's second highest scorer in the series after skipper Rohit (207) highlights the difficulty that batters have faced thus far. Big hits against quality opposition have eluded Kohli and Pujara for far too long, and they are well aware of this.
While the clamour for KL Rahul's head has buried any discussion of Kohli's Test average of 25 or higher in the last three and a half years, the master batter knows that public memory is fickle and that if the duration of failure is extended further, critics will train their guns on him. Skipper Rohit Sharma downplayed pitch talks, claiming that the team with superior skills would triumph. "How difficult the pitches are, how much turning, how much seaming...
"We're doing everything we can to keep all of that at bay," Rohit told reporters. "The conditions are there for us to play, and you have to find ways to score on whatever pitches you play on." Spinners have ruled the series, particularly in the third test in Indore, where India collapsed twice en route to a nine-wicket defeat. "Not scoring enough runs in the first innings probably cost us the game," Rohit said. "It tells you that the coin toss has no bearing on this series." To win the game, you must use your best skills and play your best cricket.
2-2 STEVE SMITH EYES In the absence of regular skipper Pat Cummins, who flew home after the second match in Delhi to be with his ailing mother in Sydney, Steve Smith will lead Australia again. India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with back-to-back victories in Nagpur and Delhi, but Smith believes a draw would be a significant achievement for his team. "It would be a tremendous achievement for the group, or any touring team, to come here to India and win two Test matches," Smith said.
The key question for the Australian team will be whether they will replace one off-spinner, Todd Murphy, with an extra pacer (Scott Boland or Lance Morris). With a WTC finals berth already secured, Steve Smith would undoubtedly hope to break India's legendary record of being unbeatable at home. It had not occurred since England's arrival in 2012, but given the Indore boomerang, it cannot be ruled out.
Australia: Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (c), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat.