NEW DELHI (Reuters) - If Virat Kohli was asked to give his opinion on what he dislikes most about the ongoing series against Australia, the chances are India’s captain would bemoan the introduction of three new test venues across the four matches.
The showdown between the world’s top two teams kicked off with a debut test at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, where Australia beat India’s spinners at their own game to end a 19-match unbeaten streak dating back to late 2015.
On a pitch which subsequently earned a “poor rating” from the match referee, Steve O‘Keefe and Nathan Lyon combined to punch holes in the popular perception that Indian batsmen were the masters of spin as Australia won by a whopping 333 runs.
Back in the friendlier and familiar confines of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Kohli’s men prevailed in a four-day slugfest marked by verbal volleys and animated send-offs to level the series with a 75-run victory.
Kohli has established a reputation as a man of many emotions and anxiety is likely to be the most dominant of them when he looks ahead to next week’s third test in Ranchi, another venue making its international debut in the longest format.
“We can’t do much about the Ranchi pitch, you know how it’s always been,” the 28-year-old said after the victory in Bengaluru, effectively conceding any thoughts of a ‘home advantage’ when the rivalry resumes.
“It’s always been slow and low, they know exactly what to expect there and we know what to expect as well. It’s how you mentally prepare, mentally what kind of zone you are in as a team.”
Like many other teams, India have been unapologetic about exploiting conditions on home soil that suit them best but the new venues, to an extent, have mitigated that factor.
Kohli, however, still expects his spearhead slow bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to continue what they have been doing over a successful home season.
“The spinners have been outstanding and they will definitely look to back their strengths and dominate the home season as they’ve done so far,” the India captain added of the top-ranked bowlers in test cricket.
Pitch curator SB Singh has prepared three strips for the match and promised that any one of them would lead to a fair contest between bat and ball.
“The team will choose the strip two days before the match,” Singh told NDTV channel.
“The pitch will suit both the batsmen and bowlers, and will definitely last five days,” he added.
As for more tips on the vagaries of the new pitch, Kohli would do well to contact India’s last captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who inspected the ground on Thursday.
The fourth and final test will also be played at a new venue when the teams line up at Dharamsala on March 25.
Editing by John O'Brien