To give it to the Australians, the pitch drama has probably played out too far this series. The ground staff at Ranchi however took it to a different level on Wednesday when they were simply not eager to reveal what lay under the covers even to the Australia cricket team captain.
The incident occurred when the Australians came for their afternoon practice. Worried over how the pitch would look a day ahead of the third Test, Steve Smith wasted no time in going to the middle. The ground staff wasn’t ready to lift the covers, and after some gesturing, only a part was removed to allow Smith a peek.
This irked Australia coach Darren Lehmann even further as they were in no mood to leave without getting to see the entire pitch. When the covers were finally lifted, Lehmann and Smith started their assessment from every angle.
To spend so much time in trying to get a drift of the pitch isn’t always good news. Smith was upfront with his assessment later.
“It is a little bit drier than it was yesterday (Tuesday). The groundsman was pretty keen on getting the covers back on pretty quickly so it didn’t see much sun. I got only a quick look but I think it’ll play reasonably well the first day. I don’t think there will be a great deal of bounce. It’ll shoot quite low and then from there I think it’ll break up as the game wears on.”
Despite its appearance, Australia shouldn’t be too worked up by this pitch as they have the perfect operators. There was some concern about Nathan Lyon who injured his finger during the Bangalore Test as he didn’t bowl too much at nets on Wednesday. Smith said Lyon should be fine for the Test. Steve O’Keefe is expected to partner Lyon unless Australia become adventurous and pick leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson who was given a long stint at the nets.
But that may be unlikely with all-rounder Glen Maxwell expected to replace the injured Mitchell Marsh at No 6. A veteran due to his Indian Premier League experience, Maxwell adds sting to their batting with his unconventional strokes.
India however would be most wary of what Pat Cummins, tipped to replace Mitchell Starc, might bring to the table at this juncture of the series. Back in the Test fold after six years, Cummins worked up a fair amount of pace on Wednesday. If some of those deliveries happen to stay low during this Test, Cummins could prove to be the surprise factor.