India came into 4th Test match against Australia in Dharamsala needing a victory to wrestle back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that the visitors currently hold. Dharamsala, which is located in the lap of the Himalayas, offers fairly different conditions compared to what teams expect when touring India. With pre-match talks about the wicket and the conditions suiting the Steve Smith-led outfit, the news that Virat Kohli has failed to recover in time for the 4th Test came as a big setback for the hosts. To add to it, Smith won the toss and elected to bat first at Dharamsala.
While elsewhere in India, batting first is seen as a big advantage, one wouldn't have said the same about Dharamsala, where the pacers would fancy bowling first in cool and windy conditions in the morning. However, the Australian duo of David Warner and Steve Smith made the Indian bowlers feel the heat as they battered them in the first session to take the visitors total to 131 for the loss of one wicket at lunch.
The visitors banished all pre-match notions about the pitch, as they scored with a run rate of over four runs per over. There was good carry in the wicket, but little swing on offer. The bounce in the wicket made it a brilliant pitch to bat on and it appeared that Australia would bat India out of the match, and thus the series on the first day itself. But India had a surprise weapon up their sleeve. Debutant Kuldeep Yadav wasn't someone that the visitors had planned for, and they struggled to pick the chinaman bowler all day long.
The young bowler from Uttar Pradesh took three out of the five Australian wickets that fell after lunch, as the game turned on its head. There wasn't big turn off the pitch, but the uncertainty surrounding Kuldeep made the Australians struggle. The visitors were much more comfortable playing the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and Matthew Wade's stand with Pat Cummins after tea showed that. It wasn't until Kuldeep was reintroduced into the attack, that the partnership was broken and the hosts were able to bowl Australia out for 300.
The pitch remains a good one to bat on, but the slightly extra bounce in the wicket as compared to Ranchi will make the Australian attack difficult to deal with. Cummins, who bowled brilliantly on a dead Ranchi wicket, would enjoy bowling in these conditions. He will have a right go at the Indians with the new ball on the second morning and that will test the resolve of their batsmen. Nathan Lyon too is more effective on pitches that offer bounce, and would be looking to reproduce his magical spell in Bengaluru. However, he won't have the rough outside the off stump of a right-hander that made him so difficult to tackle. Day 1 showed that scoring runs isn't too difficult on this small ground at Dharamsala once a batsman plays himself in.
India, who have gone into this Test with just five specialist batsmen, will be looking to build big partnerships at the top of the order. If the top five Indian batmen play out the second day, the hosts would be either ahead or very close to the Australian total. It would also go a long way in killing the fighting spirit of the Australian side, who also suffered at the hands of the Indian batsmen in Ranchi. The visitors, who appear to be 100 runs short, would then be under some pressure to turn the situation around in the second innings, especially against the three Indian spinners. The visitors would also be forced to be extra tentative against Kuldeep, having struggled against him on Day 1, making it slightly easier for Ajinkya Rahane and Co to attack the Australians.
India have done brilliantly to be in the position that they are right now after a poor first session on Day 1. Now the onus is on their batsmen to further consolidate their position in the match and give them a chance to go for the kill later in the game.