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Sailing against the wind

india Updated: Jan 09, 2012 12:24 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times


The afternoon sea breeze blusters in from the Indian Ocean. It blows your cap off while providing temporary relief from the oppressive midday heat of Perth in summer. They call the south-westerly wind the Fremantle Doctor, because it blows from the nearby coastal city of Fremantle.

Throw in the hard, bouncy deck at the WACA stadium, a reinvigorated Australian pace attack, a stumbling India and it's certainly not what the doctor ordered for MS Dhoni & Co as they look to avoid a seventh straight away Test loss. The Test starts on Friday.

However, this is the task that awaits them. With earth and wind against them, India's only hope is to fight fire with fire. If they need any inspiration, all they need to do is turn the clock back four years.

Perth past
Like now, even then India were coming off a controversial, albeit for entirely different reasons, defeat at Sydney. Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar laid the foundation for the win with a 129-run second wicket stand. VVS Laxman pushed India closer to victory with a characteristic fightback, hitting 79 after entering the scene when India were in a spot of bother. And finally the game changer that ended the Australians’ 16-Test unbeaten run, was that spell from Ishant.

Many of the protagonists of that great win that set about India's ascent to the top of ICC Test rankings are still around; Wiser, but worryingly, as has been evident in this series, a touch too old.
Barring Tendulkar, who is the only Indian batsman to have played with any sort of fluency in this series, the rest of the batsmen have been woefully out of depth, a fact reflected in the stats box which show R Ashwin as India's second highest scorer in the series, against an Australia pace attack that is as disciplined as it is lethal.

Captain cautious
As the action heads to Perth, the focus will be on the bowlers as much as the batsmen. However, the man under most scrutiny will be skipper MS Dhoni. Hounded for setting fields to save runs rather than take wickets, he will need to give his bowlers more attacking fields. He will also have to utilise them in a way that they can take advantage of, rather than get bogged down by, the Fremantle Doctor.

Wind reaping
Zaheer Khan will be best suited bowling into the breeze from the Prindville Stand. 'The Doctor' blows in from roughly fine leg. With Zaheer, it could be an advantage because the wind could take his out swinger further away from right-handed batsmen and possibly induce an edge.

For the quicker Umesh Yadav it would be more advisable to bowl him downwind, from the Members End. It could work two-fold as his deliveries will come onto the bat quicker. Bowling with the wind for an out-and-out quick like Umesh would be less strenuous and he could be too hot to handle even for the Australia batsmen.