All said and done, the stage is set for the final flourish in the series between India and Australia. The scenic Dharamsala is all set to host the decider. Amidst all the controversies and verbal duels the battle between bat and ball has been of the highest order as both the teams gave their everything.
Now in all probability a Virat-less India will be going head to head against a power packed Australian side led by Steve Smith. The Ranchi stalemate will certainly be a great boost for Australia after the lower order hung in on Day 5 to carve out a draw from a situation when India had the upper hand.
Virat Kohli is yet to recover from the shoulder injury which he survived in the Ranchi Test. Ajinkya Rahane will lead the side in his absence as Shreyas Iyer has been asked to come in as his cover. What this means is that Shreyas Iyer by all means is expected to make his debut at Dharamsala. However, the team also has Karun Nair who also can be an able replacement for Virat Kohli.
As far as the Indian team is concerned, Harsha Bhogle in his match preview video for Cricbuzz, analyzed the team composition. He was of the view that India might go in with four bowlers as they would not like to risk dropping an extra batsman with Virat Kohli not a part of the Test match. Also he said that India will not risk playing a half fit Mohammed Shami and the inexperienced Kuldeep Yadav.
Another element which Bhogle added was the fear factor for the Indian cricket team. Having whitewashed every team in the home season so far, India have found themselves I a spot of bother against Australia.
Australia certainly has been the most competitive side so far in India’s home season and their performance speaks for them. The win at Pune was designed by a brilliant Steve Smith century who also had a role to play in the drawn Ranchi test. This is where Bhogle feels that India will go into the Test match with a bit of fear of losing the Test match which if it ultimately happens will be a sad end to what has been a grand home season for India.
The team composition for Australia in the final Test match is expected to be the same like Ranchi. Cummins, Hazelwood, O Keefe and Lyon will be the specialist bowlers with Glenn Maxwell more than capable to fill in the role of an all rounder. With the Dharamsala expected to be a pacer friendly one whether Australia add an extra pacer to the XI is something to be seen.
The pitch at Dharamsala as opposed to all the pitches so far will be a pacer friendly one as predicted by the curator. Australia with the likes of Cummins and Hazelwood would like to extract the most out of the conditions.
One of the worries for Australia though going into the Test match is David Warner’s off form. He has been short of runs in this series and Australia will hope that he makes the most of the last two innings of the series.
To sum it up, Australia will be more confident going into the Test match than India. India on one hand will go into the Test match with fear, fear of losing the Test match and the series. On the other hand they will be confident of winning the Test match and the series even without their captain.
That is the perhaps the reason why this series is called “The Test of the Best”.