Australia look for Perth comfort but fast pitch can play right into India's hands

Ajit Vijaykumar 11:36 13/12/2018
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The fastest pitch seen in Perth in years? If that indeed is the case, all that the Indian team will say is “Bring It On”.

India enter the second Test in Perth with a 1-0 advantage. They played the first match on an Adelaide surface that suited their style of batting and bowling – slow enough for the batsmen to score runs yet true enough for their quicks to get the edges and their spinner Ravi Ashwin to tie one end down.

The third and fourth Test of the series are to be played on the slowish surfaces of Melbourne and Sydney. There is no match at the Gabba, which continues to look like an incredible coup by BCCI management and a stunning concession by the Aussies given the hosts’ 30-year unbeaten run at the venue.

Which leaves the Perth cauldron at their new stadium. The old WACA ground had long lost its zing and appeal. The new venue is said to have excavated the same concoction that made the WACA the most feared venue in the world for batsmen and the greatest gift to fast bowlers.

Australia coach Justin Langer wants the new Perth pitch to have the same pace and bounce which the old venue boasted all those years back when West Indies pace legend Curtly Ambrose took 7-1 in a spell. That’s seven wickets for one run.

The Aussies believe the best way to unsettle the Indians is to unleash Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc and blast the visitors away with balls that keep climbing en route to the keeper Tim Paine, who will most likely be standing closer to the boundary rope than the batsman.

And that is just what Virat Kohli wants. Many teams have made the mistakes of playing India on such pitches that border on dangerous and have ended up on the losing side. The Aussies famously lost the 2008 Perth Test to India on a fiery pitch. South Africa lost the 2006 and 2018 Johannesburg Tests to the Indians on spicy wickets.

And this time, India have the best pace attack in their history. It can’t be emphasised enough how good Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are at the moment. It takes a lot to outperform Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins in their backyard, but that is what the Indian trio did in Adelaide.

Once again, it will come down to the toss. If India bat first, weather the storm – and they can given the sudden loss of form of Starc – and score anything north of 250, they will be calling the shots.

Australia are in a tricky spot with more than one batsman struggling for runs and only contributions from the lower order making the first Test closer than it actually was.

If India were quietly confident before the first match, they will be positively roaring on Friday. Remember, this is the same Indian team that put its body on the line on a dangerous pitch in Jo’Burg earlier in the year when the South Africans pondered walking out.

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