Inspecting the pitch before a match is routine but clicking pictures of the track, for possible dressing room discussion and strategy building, is a bit unusual. That's exactly what happened this morning when Australia skipper Pat Cummins came to have a look at the 22-yard-strip which will be used for the World Cup title clash between India and Australia on Sunday. (Scorecard | Streaming | Key Battles | Preview)
Probably the pitch is playing on Australians' mind before the big match. Cummins was guarded in his response when asked about his assessment of the pitch, which has already been used for the marquee India-Pakistan match.
"Just had a look," Cummins replied when asked about the track. So what do you make of it? He was probed further. "I'm not a great pitch reader, but it looked pretty firm. They've only just watered it, so yeah, give it another 24 hours and have a look, but it looks like a pretty good wicket." "I think Pakistan played someone there," he said without taking India's name.
While Australian team had an afternoon training session, Cummins was at the Narendra Modi Stadium just after half past 9. He went up to the square and then started clicking pictures to possibly check and compare how much the track's look will change from Saturday morning to afternoon and subsequently on the match-day afternoon.
In fact, before the Australian training session started, Steve Smith, Travis Head, head coach Andrew McDonald also wanted to have a close look. Head, a good off-spinner in conducive conditions tried to gauge the hardness of the surface. Eden Gardens strip had a few deliveries turning at right angles but Cummins believe that it won't be like that in Motera. A black soil track, rolled heavily to ensure slowness, is on offer. Batting will be difficult under the lights if opposition has two quality spinners operating in the middle overs.
"It's been a bit more high scoring here throughout the tournament. It's obviously the same for both teams. No doubt playing on your own wicket in your own country has some advantages, similar to wickets that you've been playing your whole life," he said. Unlike Wankhede where New Zealand virtually lost the game after losing the toss, it won't be the case at Motera.
"I think, of all the venues, perhaps this venue - the toss isn't as important as, say, a Mumbai Wankhede Stadium or other venues. So, we’ll be ready in terms of anything they'll throw at us. Yeah, we'll wait and see, but we'll make sure we have some plans."
Dew will be big factor
ICC's pitch consultant Andy Atkinson did pay a visit and was around for an hour as BCCI's curators monitored the last day touch up before it is handed over to match referee Andy Pycroft. The GCA ground-staff were seen using anti-dew spray in the afternoon as the last 20-25 overs of the match are always affected by late evening dew.
"I think the biggest difference is the dew. This city and venue seems to have more dew than a lot of the other places we play. So perhaps, yeah, that's something to think about ahead of tomorrow." If Australia bat second, keeping dew factor in mind, Cummins indicated that batting order could be tweaked a bit.
"You've got to weigh up batting during the day when it might be a bit easier than under lights, but knowing that late in the second innings it could also slide on. "Again, it (dew) might only be the last quarter of the game but once that settles in and the ball is skidding on, it's quite different to say the first 20 overs where it might be swinging. So, something to consider," he further stated.