India are ahead in the series and have already retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, yet the pressure would still be on Rohit Sharma and his men going into the fourth and final Test against Australia beginning in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Reason: The World Test Championship (WTC) final berth is yet to be secured with India and Sri Lanka in the race to take on Australia at The Oval in June. Team Rohit does have its nose ahead, but a win would seal the spot.
Of course, India, if they draw or even lose, can still make the WTC final if Sri Lanka are unable to beat New Zealand 2-0 in the away series, which too begins on Thursday. But India wouldn’t want to rely on others to have their way.
Australia, while secure in the WTC final, would like to carry forward the momentum they gained with the nine-wicket win on a rank turner in Indore in the previous match.
The Ahmedabad pitch is an obvious talking point. Of the two pitches that have been prepared, the one that’s drier could be in use for the Test. Whether it will be another rank-turner remains to be seen, but it will definitely aid the spinners.
Steve Smith, who will lead Australia in the final Test, plays Holi at the team hotel in Ahmedabad on Wednesday Getty Images
Stand-in skipper Steve Smith, who marshalled his troops well in Indore after the drubbing they received in the first two Tests in Nagpur and New Delhi, believes the pitch at the Motera will be helpful for batters on the first day.
“Looks like probably of the four wickets we’ve seen so far, this will potentially be the flattest on Day I,” Smith said on Wednesday.
However, Smith expects that dry heat will ensure the pitch cracks up as the game progresses. “It’s pretty hot out there... Looks like it’ll dry out as the day goes on.
“But in terms of the day before, it certainly seems it’s likely to do less on Day I than we’ve seen so far.”
Of course, the visitors’ batting remains a concern and Smith would hope that they, including himself, get going in this game.
Even Indian batters, irrespective of how the pitch behaves, will need to show better application against the massively improved Nathan Lyon and the other two Australian tweakers (Todd Murphy and Matthew Kuhnemann). The Indian camp will hope for runs from the blades of Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli.
Combination-wise, India may bring in senior pacer Mohammed Shami in place of Mohammed Siraj.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese will be in attendance at the stadium on Thursday.