Ahead of the highly-anticipated 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy set to begin in Nagpur from Thursday, former Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson urged the Pat Cummins-led side to bat first and get good totals to put pressure on the Indian team.
“If the Aussies can bat first a couple of times early in the series, at venues which are expected to take a fair bit of spin, and get good first-innings totals on the board that will put a bit of pressure back onto India. Batting on a crumbling pitch in the fourth innings does not present the same threat to the home team as it does to the tourists,” wrote Johnson in his column for ‘The West Australian’.
After playing the first Test at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur, India and Australia will play the next three Tests in New Delhi (February 17-21), Dharamshala (March 1-5) and Ahmedabad (March 9-13).
Talking about what will be the conditions in Nagpur, Johnson wrote, “Australia will play a Test in Nagpur this week for the first time since 2008, when Jason Krejza took 12 wickets. Expect a pitch that is very flat early and without any grass. There won’t be much swing either and it will be very tough work for the quicks.”
Johnson also talked about how crucial the role of fast-bowlers will be in Nagpur, as Australia will be without Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and potentially Cameron Green. “The fast bowlers will still need to play an important role by creating footmarks for the spinners and the absence of left-armer Mitchell Starc, and the fact all-rounder Cam Green is not expected to be ready to bowl, are significant blows.”
“Lyon with his ability to find extra bounce should like bowling in a Test in Nagpur for the first time. But Australia may need to find a way to play three quicks alongside two spinners to help create those important footmarks.”
In terms of spinners, Johnson doesn’t see Indian batters fearing in playing against Lyon in the four-match series. “The Aussies have taken over four spinners and while the Indians would respect Nathan Lyon’s experience and Test record, they wouldn’t be fearing any of them. Indian batsmen use their feet well and hit spin very correctly.”
Johnson signed off by saying playing Test cricket in India is the ultimate test for an Australian cricketer. “There is no form of cricket that tests players like a Test match and there is no venue that challenges visiting players more than India.”
“But that’s the beauty of going there and why it’s regarded as the toughest challenge in world cricket. Worryingly, the Aussies were not really tested at all during this home summer.”
“Playing cricket in India is a test of commitment as much as skill and that means committing for very long periods and grinding your way through tough phases – because there’s plenty of them.”