India vs Australia: Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma’s Perth experience a big plus
The biggest obstacle for batsmen playing at the WACA used to be acclimatisation. It often took really good Australian batsmen a few innings before they became accustomed to the extra pace and bounce. The new Perth stadium pitch is reported to be of a similar ilk. If that is the case, the same problem will confront Virat Kohli’s men.
Kohli will be fine; he’s already experienced the pace and bounce of the WACA and he not only survived to pass on the experience to his current teammates but also succeeded. He performed well in both innings of that 2011-12 match, scoring 35% of India’s runs.
And there-in lies the difficulty facing the current Indian batsmen. In 2011-12 Kohli scored 35% of India’s meagre match tally and the illustrious batting order comprised Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni.
That’s a talented line-up that Kohli’s team can’t match but what they lack in skill they make up for in grit. It’s often said that a good team takes on the character of the captain and this Indian side is every bit as competitive as Kohli without his intense emotional output.
The only other current Indian player who had experience at the WACA is Ishant Sharma. He’s a vastly improved bowler from the tyro who first strode the WACA in 2007-08 but he will have fond memories of that occasion. He bowled brilliantly to Australia’s best batsman Ricky Ponting and dismissed him in both innings.
So that is a big plus for the Indian team; they have two senior players who have not only played but also enjoyed some success on a pitch that the new Perth stadium strip could resemble. If the players new to Perth want a guide on what they might expect to find, they only have to seek out Kohli or Ishant.
India only had one success at the WACA in four tries and it came in the most unlikely of circumstances. It followed losses at the MCG and the SCG, the latter the scene of the animosity filled Monkeygate game.
Following that Test, India appeared to be in disarray. There were threats to abort the tour after Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh were involved in an on-field altercation but India then re-grouped to pull off a spectacular victory.
India are now in the unusual position of defending a series lead in Australia. The hosts will feel confident they can level the series on the back of an attack that has the height and pace to take advantage of a lively pitch.
Whilst batting can be difficult on such a pitch, the bowlers need to get their length right or they can suffer in the extreme. Bowling fast and short can lead to punishment as Australia’s speed demon Jeff Thomson found out in 1975-76. He suffered at the hands of Roy Fredericks and had the unflattering figures of 17-0-128-3.
Following a hard fought and at times attritional match in Adelaide, there are many unknowns as the two teams face-off at the new Test venue in Perth.
The difference this time as compared with India’s previous four Tests in Perth -- apart from the venue -- is they have a pace attack to capitalise on the conditions. If India win or aren’t defeated in Perth it will severely deflate an Australian team trying to re-establish it’s credentials; that is a big incentive for Kohli and his band of scrappers.
(The writer is a former Australian Test captain and is writing exclusively for Hindustan Times)