Australia batter Steve Smith has already rated the upcoming edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy “bigger than the Ashes”. The Aussies have won just one Test in their last four trips to India and their only series win in 54 years came in 2004 under the captaincy of Adam Gilchrist.
And 19 years later, Pat Cummins has been handed the same responsibility. But he isn’t willing to label the uphill task as ‘baggage’ just yet. “This team is very different to a lot of the teams that have played here in the past. So, we don’t carry the wins, we don’t carry the losses. We know it’s tough to tour here. India are a really good cricket side, especially at home, so we are excited and yeah, we will give it our best shot,” Cummins told the media on the eve of the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Nagpur.
Riddled with injuries
The Australian captain, too, followed his counterpart Rohit Sharma’s example and chose not to reveal the final eleven for the opening Test.
However, he confirmed the unavailability of all-rounder Cameron Green and pacer Josh Hazlewood. Green is struggling with a finger injury while Hazlewood is out because of a niggle in his Achilles tendon. Cummins also lamented the absence of premier fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who has been sidelined by a finger injury sustained during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa. “We are confident in everyone in our touring party at the moment. Cameron Green’s injured, so he won’t play... and so will Josh Hazlewood (sic)... I am hoping both of them (Starc and Hazlewood) come back for the second Test. But again, (we have) someone like Scotty Boland who has played a lot for us over the last 12 months and performed well in all conditions; Lance Morris as well - untried, but we’re confident about his abilities. Unfortunately, Josh and Starc - our two frontline options - are unavailable, but we feel happy with the depth we have.”
First-innings lead vital
When in the subcontinent, Cummins feels, the first-innings score has a lot of say on how the following sessions pan out. He said, “I think it’s more important here than anywhere else in the world, that first-innings lead. You just got to find a way to put a big total on the board especially thinking if it is going to spin, it’s going to get really hard in that second innings.”
But he wasn’t willing to put a number to it just yet, saying it will vary from stadium to stadium. “You’ve got to bat big in the first innings. It might not be the same for every venue. At some, 250 might be a good score, there might be other venues where you might need 500. Reading the wicket can be a bit difficult at times, but you must be ready for everything.”
Amid discussions surrounding India deliberately creating turning tracks for visiting teams, Cummins said the foreign conditions add to the excitement. “The conditions are so different to what we grow up playing at home. And that’s really exciting. We’ve managed a couple of good tours away in foreign conditions in the last 12 months and that’s the exciting thing about travelling here. You don’t get these opportunities all the time, so, we know it’s going to be challenging at times, but we are looking forward to embracing that and just enjoying it,” Cummins said.
Having taken a good look at the pitch, Cummins feels it has been customised based on the Australian team’s composition. Four of its top seven batters are left-handed - David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Alex Carey. “Looks a little bit dry for the left-handers and knowing how much traffic will probably go through there from the right-arm bowlers, there might be a fair bit of rough out there. Again, that’s something we just got to embrace.”