Indian curators using mystery techniques to doctor pitch
CRICKET: Australia is bracing for a war of attrition in Bangalore after paranoid curators used a metal object, hessian bags, hoses and a mystery substance to try to take Mitchell Starc and Steve O'Keefe out of the second Test.
Embarrassed after the debacle in Pune, the BCCI appears hellbent on using any means necessary to manufacture conditions that will set up a brutal five-day battle in the hope it will favour the innate skills and home-ground knowledge of the embattled Indians.
In contrast to the crumbly dust bowl that disintegrated on the spot and played into Australia's hands in the first Test, the Bangalore centre square looks more like a green monster, but not one that will offer bounce and carry. Instead, it's a surface purposefully designed to try to silence reverse swing masters Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
India's plan is to pile on a mammoth first-innings total and then slowly grind its opponents into the dirt, meaning Australia's top order must go large and be the ones to pave the way to victory.
Curators resorted to cloak and dagger methods on Wednesday, driving a screwdriver into the middle of the pitch and using a mystery substance to try to close up cracks, before hastily covering the wicket up to conceal it from view.
However, before the pitch went under covers, some noticeable bare patches were revealed, including one ominous spot outside off-stump to the left-hander, which appears custom made for Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin.
Miraculously for India, curators found a couple of hoses and watered the wicket and centre square generously in a bid to help it retain its moisture.
The wicket is dry but it will hold together for the long haul - explanation of why there's been nine draws in Bangalore from 21 Tests.
Starc was expecting an abrasive centre square lined with used wickets to offer extra help to make the ball reverse, but instead the middle was strikingly lush and green, meaning Australia will have to work extra hard to move the ball off the straight.
"There is probably going to be a couple of wickets on the square. When the ball gets into that off the bat it's going to create some rough sides on the ball," Starc said on Tuesday.
"That's going to create some rough sides on the ball so it's about looking after that shiny side for us.
"If it's not going to spin as much in Bangalore, we're going to have to make sure we're using that reverse swing."
In the past year, the entire Bangalore outfield has been dug up and replaced, making for a pristine outfield as green as Australia would ever see in India.
Australian captain Steve Smith felt the Pune minefield brought O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon right into the match because of the extreme turn created.
However, on a pitch that won't spin that much, O'Keefe and Lyon will have to work harder for their wickets, and there's a feeling from India that over the course of five days a tradesman like Ashwin will prevail.
Batting appears key.
"It could be a similar wicket to the England series (against India) where we saw big first-innings totals with 500-plus," Starc said.
"It's going to be important for our batters to make the most out of our first innings.
"We know the first innings are going to be huge now for the rest of the series."