By Karan Bhatia for LastWordOnCricket
When India beat South Africa convincingly in October 2015 on rank turners, the notion of India dominating big opposition on home turf wasn’t an overboard thought. Pitches were made to expose the vulnerabilities of teams outside the subcontinent who have troubles playing spin bowling. England did show how India can be beaten in India on turning pitches in 2012 but when Australia came in 2013, India ruthlessly exposed Australia’s spin shortcomings.
When India announced their home season fixtures for thirteen Test matches against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia, it was widely expected that these teams would be welcomed by rank turners and be made to face a trial by spin. It has not happened so far in the nine Tests. India welcomed New Zealand on pitches which did not turn until late on the second day and gave the New Zealand seamers more than a realistic chance to get India out twice. The third Test in Kolkata was a new relayed surface and one with pace in it. India rallied on and played good cricket in crunch situations to put the series beyond New Zealand. New Zealand admittedly left for home lamenting the missed chances to put India under pressure.
A very similar theme followed for the England series. A flat batting track was the curtain-raiser for the series and India showed grit to hold on for a draw. The following Test matches were on pitches which were good wickets for a competitive Test series. England losing twice after scoring 400 in their first innings is an indicator to the fact that India in this season haven’t preyed on opposition with pitches that turn excessively: they have given opposition a fair environment and they have beaten teams convincingly despite losing seemingly-crucial tosses.
To say spinners have ruled the roost this home season would not be wrong but the seamers’ impact cannot be overlooked. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have always contributed when the spinners have looked flat. Every player in the team has contributed whenever needed. India’s lower order has provided the team with much needed momentum. Take the players who have been called as last minute replacements: both Karun Nair and Parthiv Patel have performed admirably. The runs have come in buckets this season and they haven’t been easy. This team has grafted for them and they have deserved every Test win this season, not because of the pitches but because of the quality of the performances.
Australia now come to end the season and come to stop the juggernaut. Australia when last visited these shores they lost to Sri Lanka convincingly, and the last time they visited India were whitewashed comprehensively. It is still justifiable to expect raging bunsens, but does this team really need them to dominate opponents? India will definitely produce turning tracks, but they definitely would not produce tracks which would start turning from ball one. Australia would love the chance to play on tracks where they get the chance to unleash their impressive pace battery. David Warner would certainly love a couple of sessions where he would get an even track. India will go into this series thinking they can win the series convincingly and finish the season unbeaten and that wouldn’t be a fantasy.
Can Australia pass the spin test? Can they make use of the pitches which gives them more than a realistic chance to challenge the Indians? Can India finish the season unbeaten? We will get our answers come Thursday.