Before the start of the Australian tour, News Nation’s in-house cricket expert Maninder Singh said India must take smart decisions if they had to win a Test series in Australia for the first time. “India can only win if they take sensible and correct decisions. Some dodgy team selections, misreading the conditions dragged the Indian team down in England,” Maninder said. India had played the right team composition in Adelaide and they took the lead in the series thanks to a 31-run win. Heading into the Perth Test, all the talk was how green the wicket was and how it could assist the pacers.
Speaking before the match, India skipper Virat Kohli was excited by the green cover on the pitch. “We certainly get more excited than nervous looking at lively pitches. We understand that we have a bowling attack that can bowl out the opposition now. I hope no more grass is taken off it,”Kohli said. Australia picked up an unchanged XI from the Adelaide Test, which included offspinner Nathan Lyon. India were forced to make changes due to injuries to Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma. The inclusion of Umesh Yadav in Ashwin’s place meant India played a team with four pacers.
At first, it seemed a good move. The pacers were getting exaggerated assistance from the deck but as the day progressed, the Australian team managed to score runs freely. Steady contributions from the Australian batsmen pushed their total past 300.
Reading too much into conditions
After the performance of the Australian batsmen, it seemed like Kohli had fallen for the idiom, The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. In this context, it meant India were too caught up by the conditions. The Indian cricket team were missing a bowler, primarily a spinner, who could bottle one end up and maintain the pressure. Consider this aspect, Paine announced a XI which had Lyon as the spinner. In the Australian innings, Hanuma Vihari, a part-time spinner, took two wickets. On a day when bowlers had to toil in the relentless heat, not including a spinner and giving the pacers some respite proved to be a misjudgement from Kohli and the coaching staff.
In 2018 alone, this would not be the first time that Kohli and the Indian team have made a dodgy team selection after reading the conditions wrongly. In Lord’s 2018, on a green wicket and in overcast conditions, Kohli included Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, two spinners in the side. India were conveniently routed. In Centurion, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was dropped after a decent show with bat and ball in the Cape Town Test and India lost the match and the series.
In Southampton, playing a half-fit Ashwin proved to be a costly mistake as the offspinner was unable to exploit the conditions and India ended up losing the series. Whether this decision will end up proving to be a very costly one in terms of the match remains to be seen. However, India must read conditions correctly if they are to win consistently overseas.