Former Test paceman Mitchell Johnson is backing Australia to trump a “nervous” India in the Test series decider that starts on Saturday, also tipping it will be a pace shootout.
Dharamsala has a reputation of being among the most pace-friendly pitches in India, offering good bounce and carry.
Curator Sunil Chauhan indicated on Wednesday his green strip “will behave as it has done naturally here …it will stay fast and bouncy”.
It’s doubtful that will be the case after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) inspects facilities.
Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar promised “the ball will fly” off his deck for the first Test, only for the BCCI to demand a raging turner be prepared instead. That ploy backfired spectacularly as Steve O’Keefe spun Australia to a comfortable victory.
Johnson suggested Dharamsala would offer Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood plenty of assistance.
“Dharamsala is an amazing ground and the only times I have seen it are with grass on (the pitch),” Johnson told Fox Sports.
“That’s why the Australians will probably be confident and India will be a little bit nervous. They’ve been overconfident in this series and I think the scoreline shows that.”
Cummins was sent for routine scans because of his history of injuries but has been given the all clear to play the fourth Test. Hazlewood is also set to back up despite the tight turnaround.
India have summoned paceman Mohammed Shami to the scenic mountain town. Shami, who recently returned from a knee injury, is a faster bowler than veteran Ishant Sharma.
If Shami is added to the XI it is likely to be at the expense of Sharma, although the top-ranked Test side may be tempted to drop batsman Karun Nair.
Johnson opined Jackson Bird, who has been restricted to drinks duty throughout the tour, should earn a shock call-up to Australia’s XI at the expense of O’Keefe.
“Lyon will get a lot more bounce and he has been turning the ball quite nicely … it’s more of an Australian kind of wicket, I think you’ll see Nathan Lyon bowl and Bird come in as the third quick,” the left-armer said.
“It’s a tough one because they’ve both had their moments in this series, but I think you’ve got to go with experience (and play Lyon ahead of O’Keefe).”