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India pitch ploy backfires with Indore to face ICC call

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Rohit Sharma admitted India’s demand for sharp-turning pitches backfired with an Indore surface Australia suggested was on the “extreme” end of the spectrum set to face judgment from the International Cricket Council.

While victorious captain Steve Smith insisted he had enjoyed playing on a Holkar Stadium strip that had large chunks of turf exploding from it from the first over the match, he wondered aloud whether it had been too erratic too early.

Rohit, despite his side losing a Test at home for just the third time in their last 46 matches, stood by what he says is an edict to prepare pitches designed to favour India’s spinners and maximise the skill of their lower-order batters.

“Before a series starts, you have to decide on what pitches you need to play,” the opener told reporters after Australia’s nine-wicket win. “It was our call to play on such pitches. We knew that we could face challenges as well, but we were ready for these challenges.

“The consistent runs from the batters will not come on such challenging pitches. We are here to win whether it is two days or five days, it doesn’t matter. We don’t want to prepare a pitch where the results are not coming. We want to play to win.

Tricky chase negotiated as Australia hit back in Indore

“And we do understand it can come back to haunt us, I am aware of that.

“We want be brave enough, not just with talking. We want to be brave enough on what we do on the field and that’s playing on challenging pitches.”

In 90 years of India hosting Test cricket, only the 2021 Ahmedabad Test against England saw fewer runs scored in a match that achieved a result than this week’s Indore Test.

The first two Tests of this series in Nagpur and Delhi were also played on challenging surfaces, with the ICC rating both pitches as “average”.

This time Chris Broad, who replaced Andy Pycroft as match referee for the third Test, will have the final say on the Indore track and will consider whether it ventured into “below average” or “poor” territory.

Lyon’s vicious off-break castles Pujara

Either verdict would see demerit points handed down to the venue, which had been forced to prepare the pitch on short notice after Dharamsala (where the third Test was originally scheduled for) was deemed unsuitable.

A “below average” mark would be the fourth time in a year that Australia have played a Test on a pitch given that rating, with the ICC also deeming surfaces produced in Rawalpindi (against Pakistan in March last year), Galle (against Sri Lanka in July) and Brisbane (against South Africa in December) as not up to scratch.

The last Test pitch given that rating in India came last year for the Bangalore match against Sri Lanka.

“All the wickets have spun, we haven’t gotten past three days yet so that shows that it’s been spinning from day one in all the Test matches, but I personally I really enjoyed playing on these kind of wickets,” said Smith.

“I prefer this than just a genuine flat wicket that goes five days and can be boring in stages.

“With this one, whether it might have been a little bit too extreme, potentially from the first ball, I’m not really entirely sure.”

Rohit also bristled at a query on whether India would make good on his pre-Indore Test suggestion that a green seaming pitch favouring fast bowlers could be prepared for the final match in Ahmedabad to help his side prepare for the World Test Championship final.

Australia’s win in Indore saw them become the first team to guarantee qualification.

Rohit had said earlier this week that the preparation of a pace-friendly surface next week hinged on the home side winning the third Test to put the series result beyond doubt.

While the Border Gavaskar Trophy has been retained by India, Australia could still draw the series 2-2 with another win in the final match.

“This pitch talk is getting too much. Every time we play in India, we always focus on the pitch,” said Rohit in response to a question about the Ahmedabad plan he had labelled a “definite possibility” on Tuesday.

“Why are we not talking about Nathan Lyon? How well he bowled? How well (Cheteshwar) Pujara batted in the second innings, how well Usman Khawaja played?

“Those are the things if you ask me I can give the details of, not the pitch. We focus too much on the pitch here in India and I feel that is necessary.”

Border-Gavaskar Qantas Tour of India 2023

February 9-13: India won by an innings and 132 runs

February 17-21: India won by six wickets

March 1-5: Australia won by nine wickets

March 9-13: Fourth Test, Ahmedabad, 3pm AEDT

All matches broadcast live and exclusive on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson

India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat

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