What’s the story?
With the series on the line, India and Australia face off for the fourth Test in Dharamshala starting on Saturday, 25th of March. This will be the first time the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala will be hosting a Test match.
The surface is one of the few surfaces in India that traditionally favour seam bowlers. Adding to this, HPCA chief curator Sunil Chauhan confirmed that the pitch will indeed assist seamers.
“The conditions here are such that you cannot deny the fact that pacers will get assistance in this wicket. But yes, all I can say is that it will not be as excessive as witnessed during domestic matches in the winters. The weather has eased out slightly and you can expect controlled movement,” he said to CricketNext.
Keeping that in mind, 30-year-old Jackson Bird is expected to make the playing XI ahead of the struggling Steve O’ Keefe. The 6’5 inch seamer is one who will potentially stand to benefit most from the surface. He generally runs in and hits the deck hard and has the ability to swing the ball both ways.
Steve O’ Keefe, Australia’s hero who was responsible for the visitors’ first win on Indian soil in over a decade in Pune has struggled in the two matches after that. Jackson Bird provides another dimension altogether to the Australian side and can push his side towards the win.
It is reported that Jackson Bird spent hours at the net bowling at David Warner in preparation for the final Test.
If Steve O’ Keefe were to miss out, it would mean Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell would be expected to roll their arm over as well. Bird has played a total of 8 Tests for Australia, picking up 34 wickets at an average of 27. He last played a Test for Australia against Pakistan towards the end of 2016.
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy has been evenly contested up until this point. The expectation ahead of the series was that the hosts would comfortably overwhelm the visitors given the latter’s struggles in the sub-continent in the last few years. However, going into Dharamshala, everything is up for grabs.
The Australian cricket team will be taking a huge gamble if they decide to tweak their combination after three Tests. While on paper, it does seem logical to include another seamer in Dharamshala, having only one spinner on Indian surfaces will most likely always end up being the wrong approach.
With the series on the line, I reckon Australia will retain the combination they have gone in with through the series.