Whenever teams came to Perth, they would be encountered with the two words – pace and bounce. The WACA wicket, which was heaven for the fast bowlers thanks to their springboard bounce and extra zip under the hot sun, would test the mettle of the finest batsmen. Aided by the Fremantle Doctor, the wind that would blow across the stadium to help pacers get swing in the air, the WACA was an intimidating proposition. Just ask Sachin Tendulkar, who made a mark in international cricket only after scoring 114 on a fast Perth wicket in 1992. However, the second Test between Australia and India will be played at the New Perth stadium, which has a capacity of close to 60,000. With a closed stadium, there is no Fremantle Doctor. There is a drop-in wicket which promises pace and bounce. For Australia, this is their best chance to level the series after losing the Adelaide Test by 31 runs.
The year 2018 has been woeful for Australia, having won just two Tests in Sydney and Durban. The batting has not been able to overcome the void left by the bans on Steve Smith and David Warner. Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Travis Head have all chipped in but their contributions have been inconsistent. The tail-enders batted with much better assurance and application than the top order and this could boost Tim Paine’s batsmen to step up.
The bowlers remain Australia’s trump card. Nathan Lyon showed his class in Adelaide and he was ably supported by Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Mitchell Starc lacked rhythm and struggled for control but he still managed five wickets in the Adelaide Test. He has not had best returns in 2018 and he will be determined to come out on top in Perth.
Virat Kohli fearless
The Indian cricket team skipper has said he is more excited than nervous when he sees green on the wicket. His bowling unit has taken 162 out of 170 wickets in nine Tests against South Africa, England and the Adelaide game against Australia. When one has the bowling arsenal to take 20 wickets regularly and when one is not fazed about the conditions, it shows the confident mental space Virat Kohli and his side are in.
The fact that Perth could have a green and bouncy wicket should not faze Virat Kohli. In the past, India’s three major victories in the last five years have come on such wickets. Lord’s in 2014 and Johannesburg in 2018 were instances when the batsmen stood up and changed the course of the game. In Adelaide, Cheteshwar Pujara was the difference and he will be the key yet again. India openers, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, struggled in the first game and they have one more chance to redeem themselves. However, the injuries to Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin are a big blow. Hanuma Vihari will slot in Rohit’s place but the final place in the XI will be possibly determined by the conditions.
Kohli, in the press conference, has said he is lucky that the bowlers are in such good form. “If you don't get 20 wickets you don't win a Test match, regardless of whether you scored 600 or 700 or 800. It is insignificant. If you get 300 on the board and you have guys who can get 20 wickets then you are fine as a team. The way they have bowled in the last three tours, it is amazing. They are hungry for wickets and are not giving easy runs,” Kohli said.
It is the bowlers that Kohli will turn to if India are to achieve an unprecedented feat of winning two Tests against Australia for the first time since 1977/78. A win in Perth will also help them retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.