What’s the story?
A day after the pitch curator in Dharamsala dropped hints about the nature of the surface in which he predicted that the 22-yard strip would offer assistance to the pacers, reports suggest that the grass cover on the surface has been taken off.
This could well mean that the assistance promised to the seam bowlers could be restricted to the initial few overs after which the pitch would be a batting paradise. Historically, the pitches at Dharamsala have been belters where the men wielding the willow have enjoyed themselves owing to the true bounce and carry.
This could also mean that the bowlers will have to slog it out to extract any assistance from the surface as the hard nature of the pitch would make it very difficult for both the seam and spin bowlers.
Since the grass cover is being shaved off a day before the match, the team combinations will have to be looked into. The Indian team could well go in the same combination of 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers.
The Australian team which was considering the inclusion of Jackson Bird at the expense of Stephen O'Keefe could well take a look at their combination owing to the 'flat' nature of the surface. This could mean that they could rope in Marcus Stoinis and the centurion from the previous match, Glenn Maxwell would miss out on the playing XI.
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood has already said that the Dharamsala pitch is a 'result-oriented' surface and after the recent developments it would be interesting to see the mood in both the camps.
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The 4-match series is currently locked at 1-1 and hence Dharamsala’s maiden Test match has all the making of a cracking contest, more so after the ongoing tussle has been embroiled in a lot of comments flowing out from the rival factions.
India could well receive a jolt as the fitness of their captain Virat Kohli is still under scrutiny and the skipper himself has not made any assertive comments of him being fit enough to take the field. Shreyas Iyer has been roped in as a cover and he could well make his debut on Saturday.
The nature of pitches always grab attention, more so when the series is even-stevens and hence the attention meted out to Dharamsala’s playing surface is no aberration.
However, all the predictions failed about the Ranchi surface and thus everyone will have to wait for the match to start to decipher the nature of the strip.
The Border-Gavaskar trophy is up for grabs in Dharamsala and it would also mark the end of the long and arduous home season for the Indian team which is currently the number 1 ranked Test team in the world.
Hence, irrespective of the nature of the surface, fans all over the world would take keen interest in the proceedings as this series has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. However, one also hopes that the pitch is a sporting one which provides enough help to both the bowlers and the batsmen.