Australia vs India: Hosts played the mind game over grassy pitch in Perth but India will be generous to give it back
India too are smarter now, compared to what they were in previous times.
Updated - Dec 14, 2018 10:10 am
The second Test of the four-match series between Australia and India which promises to be an explosive affair kicked off at the new Perth Stadium on Friday, December 14. Besides the fact that the hosts are trailing the series 0-1 and will apply their fullest force in Perth to make a comeback, the match has also become interesting by the virtue of the fact that it is the first-ever that is being played at the new venue which was inaugurated earlier this year and has replaced the more familiar WACA Ground as an international one.
On Thursday, the pitch at the venue was unveiled and it was very difficult to differentiate the 22 yards from the adjoining surfaces, thanks to the green cover. Curator of the ground Brett Sipthorpe told the media that Cricket Australia (CA) asked him to prepare a wicket, the bounce of which will scare the visiting side to a large extent. This bit from Sipthorpe sparked off a controversy with CA, denying of making any sort of instruction or request to the curator and said it was only in favour of seeing a competitive game being played between the bat and ball.
Sipthorpe’s claims do not sound completely baseless since the Baggy Greens have often complained about pitches when touring India, saying the latter offered doctored pitches to give the advantage to the home team. The fable of the fox and stork continues to dominate international cricket even if the International Cricket Council (ICC) has stressed on matches that would see an equal battle between the batsmen and bowlers and not one-sided ones.
Poor in resources, Australia chose to play the mind game around the pitch
The Australians have clearly tried to play a mind game here. The team has always been known for waging a psychological battle against its opponents but since they lack enough skilled resources now and have found themselves at the receiving end with the scoreline reading 0-1, it is the pitch factor they have tried to play upon to create some doubt in the mind of the Indians. From former captain Ricky Ponting to newcomer Marcus Harris, the Kangaroos have said that the Perth wicket will suit them more. Given this is the first long game to be played on this ground, such predictions by players who are more accustomed to these parts of the world are enough to create a nervous energy in the opposition’s ranks.
Kohli gave back the pitch intimidation rightly back
But India too are smarter now, compared to what they were in previous times. Captain Virat Kohli threw down the gauntlet to the hosts saying, far from getting nervous, he was actually looking forward to renewing the bout, mentioning things like whether the ball would hit them are much trivial compared to the results and they have come Down Under to make a positive impact. Kohli also drew a parallel to the third Test of the series that India played in South Africa in Johannesburg earlier this year. There, too, the hosts offered a fast top but India, despite getting out twice below 250, came back to win the match by 60-odd runs. The credit went to the Indian pacers who turned the tables on the Proteas.
This retort by Kohli has come from the strength he has, unlike most of his predecessors, and that is India’s pace battery. It will be no exaggeration to say that the India quicks were better than their Australian counterparts in the first game in Adelaide even in conditions that were not special. While former Australian players were critical of the form of Mitchell Starc, the Indian bowlers shared the exploits, proving the healthy contest in which they both compete with each other while also complementing each other.
India had capitulated before Windies fast bowling once at a new venue at home
To recall an instance where India played the first Test at a particular venue, they were up against the Windies in the maiden match played at the Mohali stadium in December 1994. The venue was then known to be India’s fastest wicket and there, the hosts capitulated to the Caribbean fast bowlers, led by Courtney Walsh. Speedster Kenneth Benjamin took eight wickets in the match for the visitors although the Man of the Match award had gone to Jimmy Adams for his magnificent 174 not out. Manoj Prabhakar had a mixed match for after scoring a hundred in the first innings, he left the ground with a broken nose in the second innings and India were bowled out for 114 on a lively wicket.
A rerun of the Mohali episode is something Australia would love to see in Perth for the final weapon that they really have now to intimidate the Indians is a lively wicket (Dean Jones though said it was an abrasive wicket where turn and reverse swing would be dominant) but since India’s strength on overseas tours nowadays is also their bowling, one wonders, like former England captain Michael Vaughan, whether the Baggy Greens have actually thrown a boomerang, a popular Australian weapon.