Ahead of his side's third Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, India skipper Rohit Sharma hinted that his side could request for a green pitch for the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad so as to prepare for the final of the ICC World Test Championship in England's pace friendly conditions, if they go up 3-0 in the series and seal their spot in the summit clash to determine the best team in the longer format.
India and Australia will lock horns in the third Test of the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Indore's Holkar Cricket Stadium from March 1 onwards. India are currently 2-0 up in the series, which saw Indian spinners dominating both Tests in Nagpur and Delhi.
The ICC World Test Championship final will be played in The Oval, London from June 7 to 11. Australia is at the top of the current WTC points table and is another favorite to play the final. Sri Lanka, which is in third place in the table, also has an outside chance to enter the final. For that SL has to ensure that they perform well in the two-Test series against New Zealand starting from March 9 onwards and the results of other teams also go their way.
India has prepared seamer-friendly pitches at home in the past with an aim to conquer major away series. In the 2017-18 season, they played on a green, pacer-friendly pitch at home against Sri Lanka in Kolkata's Eden Gardens, so as to prepare for their tour to South Africa. The tactic produced great results as seamers took 32 out of 35 wickets in that match.
Rohit hinted that his side could do something similar and set up a dress rehearsal for the WTC final in pace-friendly conditions in Ahmedabad if they win in Indore. He also said that selection could also be tricky, since Shardul Thakur, India's trusted pace-bowling allrounder in overseas conditions is not in the squad for the series and has not played competitive cricket for over a month. Rohit attended Shardu's wedding in the break between the second and third Tests.
"There is definitely a possibility of that. We have already spoken about it. We need to get the guys ready for it as well. The important one is Shardul Thakur, because he comes into that plan for us. I do not know how ready he is, knowing that he just got married. We do not know how many overs he has bowled. But yeah, that thought process is definitely there. If we do what we do here and we get the result we want, we might think of doing something different in Ahmedabad for sure," said Rohit as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
In that Kolkata Test against Sri Lanka back in 2017-18, the combination of damp weather and a green top helped India simulate overseas conditions in their home setting. It would be possible to produce a similar pace-friendly green pitch in Ahmedabad, but the weather is expected to be hot and dry, with a maximum temperature in its 30s, which is nothing like London in June.
India have to overcome their rivals Australia in the third Test though. Though India produced yet another three-day finish in Delhi Test, India was 139/7 in their innings in reply to Australia's first innings total of 263.Rohit expects Australia to push India hard again in Indore.
"It will be a great achievement for us [to reach the WTC final], but we know that we need to cross that final hurdle, and for that, we need to win the next game as well, so the focus is on this Test, how we can win this game, and not look too far ahead, because after this game we have got one more Test match to be played, and then after that, there are two months of IPL," Rohit said.
"There is a lot of time to think about the final, but right now it is very important for us to focus on this one and see how we can turn it around and win this game as well, because in the last game, we were put under pressure for sure, we can expect the same here as well, so we need to be ready for that," added Rohit.
The skipper said that it would be exciting for two teams to play in the WTC final in neutral conditions in England. "It will be a different ball game, for both teams actually. Actually, I do not want to talk about the World Test Championship. We are not there yet. We want to win this game and then talk about it. That will be the right thing to do."
"But just speaking of it from the outside, clearly, I do not think England is going to qualify, so both teams who are going to play the final will be neutral teams. It is going to be exciting. There is no home advantage, no conditions advantage. India has played a lot of cricket in England over the last couple of years. Australia has played a lot of cricket [there].
Sri Lanka and South Africa are also in the mix [South Africa is out of the reckoning]. They probably have played a lot of cricket there as well. It is not going to be alien conditions as such, to both teams who will make the final. It will be a good contest between the two teams, whoever those teams are," concluded the skipper.
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India's Test squad for the third and fourth Test against Australia: Rohit Sharma (Captain), K L Rahul, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat.