Australia ready for 'fun' challenge of Nagpur pitch in Test opener

By Sports Desk February 08, 2023

Pat Cummins is backing his Australia team to rise to the challenge of playing India on a potentially troublesome Nagpur pitch in the first Test.

The surface has been the subject of much debate ahead of this week's opener at VCA Stadium.

Images of the pitch appear to show bare patches that could cause left-handed batsmen some concern against India's spin bowling.

For Australia, that represents an issue, with several of their key batters – including openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey – left-handed.

Captain Cummins, preparing to name his team ahead of Thursday's first day, acknowledged the turning pitch would be "a factor".

Right-hander Peter Handscomb would appear to be one man likely to benefit, while spin bowler Todd Murphy is set to debut.

But Cummins is also looking forward to seeing how Australia "problem-solve", with Warner, Khawaja, Head and Carey all in good form in a series win against South Africa last time out.

"I think it looks a little bit dry for the left-handers," he said.

"And knowing how much traffic will probably go through there from the right-arm bowlers [from over the wicket], there potentially might be a fair bit of rough out there. That's something you've just got to embrace.

"It's going to be fun. It's going to be challenging at times, but our batters relish the chance to problem-solve on their feet and I think quite a few of them will get that chance this week."

India have a right-hand dominant batting line-up, but captain Rohit Sharma was understandably keen not to focus on the state of the wicket.

"I just feel that you've got to focus on the cricket that's going to be played for the next five days and not worry too much about the pitch," he said.

"The last series that we played here, a lot was spoken about the pitches and all that.

"I think all 22 cricketers who are going to play are all quality cricketers, so not to worry too much about what the pitch is going to be like, how much is it turning, how much is it seaming and all those kind of things.

"You've got to just come out and play good cricket and win the game, as simple as that."

 

Happy hunting ground

This will be India's seventh men's Test at VCA Stadium, and they have won four of the previous six, losing just once.

It will be the second meeting between India and Australia at this venue, with the tourists beaten by 172 runs back in November 2008.

Australia's bogey team

Based on recent results, India may not need help from the pitch to beat Cummins' side. Australia have lost only one of their past 10 Tests, but that was against India in January 2021.

India have won six of their past eight Test series against Australia, including the past three in a row. They have lost only one of the last 15 Tests between the teams.

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