Aussies not buying into Indian 'spin' ahead of first Test
CRICKET: Australia is refusing to buy India's cock and bull story about a "bouncy" first Test pitch, with the tourists forced to consider unleashing a third spinner in Pune on a deck they believe could break up on day one.
India did their best to pull the wool over the eyes of the tourists yesterday by serving up noticeably greener practice pitches for Australia to the dryer decks prepared for the hosts on the other side of the square - a ploy noted by batsmen Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb.
The local curator then continued the shenanigans and high jinks by declaring his Test match pitch would play "very fast" and provide brilliant carry for the pacemen, even though Australia are seeing a wicket so prone to deteriorating, Nathan Lyon or Steve O'Keefe could even open the bowling.
However, as far as Australia is concerned the groundsman is lying through his teeth and a third spinning option - most likely Ashton Agar - has entered the mix to potentially play alongside frontline men Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe.
Pace spearhead Josh Hazlewood - who could possibly find himself the unlucky man to make way if Australia felt they had to go with a three-pronged spin attack - said the feedback from teammates was damning about the prospect of the Pune wicket staying together.
Australia's strong preference would be to play Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Marsh, but a Bunsen burner pitch could call for desperate measures, and Agar who performed strongly in camp in Dubai would appear to have his nose in front of Mitchell Swepson and Glenn Maxwell, if selectors decided a third spinner would be the correct horses for courses approach.
"A few of the boys said it looked pretty interesting," warned Hazlewood. "It could break up pretty quickly, spin can come into it pretty early on - day one and day two.
"You might see a few through the top but it's always hard to tell sometimes with these wickets."
Despite his reservations about the surface, Hazlewood believes he and Mitchell Starc can make a major impact this series as a pace combination.
But, O'Keefe said from a spinner's perspective, the Pune strip shapes as nothing short of a raging turner.
"It looks like it's going to spin. Potentially from day one," said O'Keefe. "It's dry, it's got its cracks - it's what we'd expect.
"It's going to spin and stay pretty low and be pretty slow. It's cut and paste what we thought we were going to get.
"It's what we've been talking about and I think it'll deliver on what it is."
It would seem Australia has already completely dismissed the dubious assessment the Pune curator yesterday gave of a wicket he believes will suit the quicks.
"I can tell you this will be very fast," he said.
"First two days will not do much, third day it might turn because wear and tear is there.
"The game will go for five days. Bounce will be very good compared to other Indian pitches.
"There will be very good bounce. The guys with strong shoulders will succeed on this pitch. There will be no seam movement, but there will be bounce."
If that's the case, Australia's unorthodox decision to take their Indian tour preparations offshore to Dubai has already been vindicated.
Although nowhere near as bad as the practice conditions served up for them in Sri Lanka last year, Australia have once again been forced to prepare on green wickets rather than anything that even closely resembles what they will face in the first Test.
That said, Australia has made a pact not to make excuses about the cards they've been dealt - knowing all along that India would try and play dirty.
"I think ours (practice wickets) were a bit greener than what was on the other side of the square," said opener Matt Renshaw.
"But we just adapted and tried different things and it's a good challenge."