The pressure is on but India will not be short of inspiration. It’s not just about the wicket and the familiar conditions, the support expected from the stands should be powerful enough to lift the home team’s spirit and intimidate the opposition.
In the four games so far, Australia have played in front of some loud crowds, but Ranchi might still stun them as George Bailey and Co will get an idea of MS Dhoni’s aura when he leads his team out at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium on Wednesday.
Strong support from the stands can get the adrenaline pumping. Battling inconsistency and a buoyant opposition, it’s expected to be India’s X-factor.
Dhoni is coming from one of his memorable innings. Not only is his crowd appeal at its peak, he is in the midst of a purple patch. Australia got a taste of his prowess in the third ODI at Mohali; they know getting Dhoni will be half the battle won. It will also help keep a check on decibel levels.
The series has become a see-saw battle with India and Australia winning alternate games, starting with the T20 game. For the visitors, that they can have a shot at the No 1 spot will be an added motivation. However, to displace India from their perch, Bailey’s men will have to win all the remaining matches.
The wicket is largely tailor-made for India — low and slow. Given how much they have banked on pace and bounce so far, it will be a bigger challenge to Australia.
At the moment, however, the gods seem to be favouring the visitors. The skies were overcast on match eve, and if it remains like this, the pacers will enjoy the conditions. It will be good news for the likes of Clint McKay and James Faulkner, who rely on movement.
The pace at which Mitchell Johnson bowls means he will be a threat in all conditions. Australia will use him mainly to expose the frailties in the Indian middle-order.
For India, this series is also important to figure out their batting combination. Suresh Raina is an experiment at No 4 and Australia are determined to make it as tough as possible for the hosts.
It’s the wicket they have targeted through their ace bomber, Johnson. The left-arm pacer is on record saying that Bailey brings him on the moment Raina walks in, to exploit the left-hander’s vulnerability against the short ball.
Dew is a big factor here which makes the toss crucial as most prefer to bowl first.
Against heavy odds, Australia have rattled the hosts, like the good old days when they used to start every game as favourites. But the key will be how the visiting team hold their nerves.