Dharamsala has historically been and will continue to be a pacy and bouncy wicket. No matter what Team India wants it cannot be delivered here. The wicket will behave similarly to the re-laid Kolkata surface. There was prodigious swing, seam and bounce in Kolkata which has hosted New Zealand in a test match and England in an ODI since being re-laid.
The swing bowler Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was the Man of the match in the test match which saw the Indian spinners cast to a side role. The England batsman Sam Billings compared batting in Kolkata to matches he has played during early county seasons.
However both England and India were able to score more than 300 runs in the ODI. Dharamsala will have similar run scoring opportunities for batsmen who give themselves time.
Where Dharamsala will be different from the other wickets in this test series is that there will be very little natural degradation during the course of the test match apart from the seamers footmarks. The pitch will be under covers in near freezing temperatures throughout the night.
The challenge for India will be from the Australian fast bowlers who should find conditions a just reward for their hard work in Ranchi. Australia should definitely go in with three seamers with Jackson Bird being one of them. The Indian seamers will be just as effective and will be reminding Australia of their Hobart debacle versus South Africa in similar conditions.
Pat Cummins pace might be lethal on this wicket although Australia might not risk playing him if he does not pull up 100% for this past test. That said, the cooler temperatures would help in recovery between spells. The conditions would also indicate a Ranchi like workload unlikely.
The team winning the toss should look to bowl first to make best use of the wicket on Day 1. Fast bowlers will do the bulk if not all of the bowling. Expect Australia to drop one of their spinners for Bird and India to drop a batsman for Kumar. Only batsmen who are able to play the swinging ball will succeed here. Expect Murali Vijay and Steven Smith to be the top scorers from either side.
The BCCI has previously invited the Dalai Lama to bless the players during any cricket events scheduled here. Should that tradition continue no doubt the leader of the Tibetan government in exile will have a calming influence on the players. Expect the on field antics to reduce as many players will be keen to remain in the warmth of their jumpers.