The wicket for the final match is expected to offer pace and bounce, something that the Australian players would be relishing.
Whatever the outcome in the final Test, Australia can consider this tour a success. Having been written off by nearly everybody before the series, Steve Smith’s men need only a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. A win would see them become only the fifth Australian side to win a series in India, and the second since 2004.
In one sense, the pressure is off for Australia as they came into the series as rank outsiders. Though in another sense, these players might never get this close to victory in India again and will want to see the job through to the end.
Dharamsala is probably the best place in India for that to happen. In the foothills of the Himalayas, the conditions are expected to be cooler than in the previous matches, and the pitch could also favour the Australians.
The curator, Sunil Chauhan, has said that the wicket will “behave as it has done naturally” and “stay fast and bouncy”. Australia will be hoping that his words come true.
It looks likely that Mohammed Shami will play, though that could be as part of a three man pace attack or in place of either Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav. If he comes in as three, India would drop a batsmen.
The prospect of a wicket that might offer something for the fast bowlers leaves Australia with selection questions as well. Jackson Bird is a chance to be recalled and if Nathan Lyon’s calloused finger doesn’t heal in time, Bird might be the word. Australia would still have enough spin options in Steve O’Keefe and Glen Maxwell, if needed.
If Lyon is unable to play and the pitch looks drier than expected, Australia might then look to Ashton Agar or Mitchell Swepson to replace their off spinning GOAT.
Of the batsmen, Shaun Marsh was picked ahead of Usman Khawaja because of his ability against spinners and his success in Asian conditions. Though if the pitch is fast and bouncy, by the same logic, Khawaja must be considered for a recall as he is a much better player of the moving ball than Marsh. It would take a brave selector to make a call such as that.
After being unable to bowl India out in 210 overs on the lower, slower wicket in Ranchi, Australia’s fast bowlers will be licking their lips at the thought of a pitch that might offer them just the slightest bit of assistance. Pat Cummins utilised the short ball to lethal effect in Ranchi and could do even more with extra pace from the wicket.
The series is evenly poised and both sides will fancy their chances, though Australia will be thanking their lucky stars that they have the chance to win in India in the least Indian conditions. They won’t want to squander that chance.