Virat Kohli refused to attach any importance to the track but Steve Smith cannot keep his mind off it as the rival captains took a contrarian view on the role the pitch would play in the third Test starting on Thursday.
Kohli felt that the external conditions would determine how the pitch would behave.
“A lot of things like weather go behind how the pitch would behave. In hot and humid conditions, we get reverse swing. It’s not just the wicket but external conditions play a role,” Kohli said on the eve of the third Test.
“I’ve not seen a cricketer who can predict the outcome after seeing a pitch. I think it’s hard to assess how much it will turn or seam. That’s why it’s said cricket is a complicated sport. You have to be always prepared,” the Indian captain added.
Asked about their batting collapse so far in the series, Kohli said: “I won’t say so much on the pitch. Even on a flat wicket, if you are under pressure, you tend to have collapses. I think most of the batting collapses are more mental than skill.
“Test is more mental, looking at the external factors. Teams who are mentally strong on that sort of wicket, it takes special effort to provide the difference in the game.”
However, Kohli’s Australian counterpart Smith was firm in his belief that another rank-turner was on offer and the Ranchi track would be no different from what they got in Pune and Bengaluru. He thinks it would start “breaking up” from the second day.
“This wicket is no different. I think the first day, it will hold together reasonably well and then start to break up from there. So again, it’s about adapting to what we’re dealt with out in the middle and ensuring that we can be in the contest for a long time,” Smith said.
Expecting slow and low bounce, Smith said they would look to hit the stumps and stick to the basics.
“I think you have to be hitting the stumps majority of the times. You have to keep things as simple as you can, try and build pressure and perhaps take wickets in different ways. We’ve got plans in these kinds of wickets, where there isn’t much bounce,” he said.
“You obviously have to adapt to whatever the wicket is doing. So I don’t think forgetting the wicket is probably the right way around it. You need to know what you’re likely to expect and play according to what the wicket is.”
The ICC Match Referee Chris Broad has rated Pune wicket as ‘poor’, while Bengaluru was termed ‘below average’. Now all eyes are on the Ranchi track, which appears dry and devoid of any grass with the groundsmen busy in watering the pitch.
“It appears a little bit drier than it was yesterday. The groundsmen were pretty keen on getting the covers on pretty quickly so it didn’t see much sun.
“Only a quick look but I think it’ll play reasonably well on the first day. I don’t think there will be a great deal of bounce, I think it’ll shoot quite low and then from there I think it’ll break up as the game wears on. You know, 22 yards and both teams have to play on it. Hopefully, we can just do a little bit better,” said Smith.