Adelaide Oval curator Damien Hough’s words that the wicket used for the first Test between Australia and India beginning on December 6 will be music to the ears of both Australia and India. Both teams have magnificent pace bowling depth and will be eager to exploit the conditions on offer. However, the promise of a green wicket gives India a decisive advantage. In the past, when presented with similar wickets, India has actually managed to turn the tables on the hosts and come out as decisive winners. Even if one ignores the recent collapses of the Indian cricket team in the series against South Africa and England, the batting resources available to Virat Kohli’s side are much more equipped to the conditions than the Australian batsmen.
In the past, Indian batsmen would flounder mentally when confronted with green conditions. The technique of the players from the sub-continent, notably from India, would be exposed. The mantra for the opposition when it came to playing India in their conditions in the past would be to present them with a green wicket and run through their batting line-up with swing and seam. However, in the past couple of seasons, the ploy to employ green wickets against the current Indian batting line-up has actually backfired.
Prospering in Green conditions
The first instance of the Indian cricket team prospering in green conditions and shattering the perception that India would be undone by swing came in 2002 at Leeds. In overcast conditions and on a green wicket, Sourav Ganguly chose to bat and a brilliant effort from Sanjay Bangar (68) and Rahul Dravid (148) weathered the swing and bounce of the England bowlers. Their efforts were built on by Sachin Tendulkar (193) and Ganguly (128) as India reached 628/8 declared. India turned the tables on England to register a spectacular innings and 46-run win.
India repeated their fondness for performing well on green conditions during the Lord’s Test in 2014. On a pitch which looked greener than the outfield, India was inserted into bat but they were rescued by the class of Ajinkya Rahane who smashed 103. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 6/82 and fifties from Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar helped India set England a target of 319. Ishant Sharma picked up 7/74 as India won the match by 95 runs for a famous win.
Success Down Under and in South Africa
It is not just England where India has had success on green decks. During the Johannesburg Test of 2006, India made 249 with Ganguly smashing 51. Sreesanth produced a magical spell of 5/40 to bowl South Africa out for 84. Armed with a big lead, India set the Proteas a target of 402 and they were bowled out for 278, giving India not just a 123-run win but their first win on South Africa soil.
In 2008, with India down 0-2, India headed to Perth and was greeted with a wicket which had plenty of swing and bounce on offer. Dravid’s 93 and Tendulkar’s 71 helped India reach 330 but RP Singh, Irfan Pathan all extracted plenty of movement to give India a 118-run lead. VVS Laxman hit 79 and India set Australia a target of 413, which the hosts fell short. This was the last win for India Down Under and they have not managed to win a game since.
Hope for jinx to end?
Before heading to the tour, Kohli said in the press conference, “We are all feeling good about the fact that we have a great bowling attack now. They know exactly what they want to do. After a long time we feel we can pick up 20 wickets in every Test we play, which I think is a great feeling to have.”
In England and South Africa, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar have all run through oppositions in varying conditions. With the Australian batting line-up missing Steve Smith and David Warner, they are very thin on experience. Aided by a potential green wicket and with the quartet available, Indian are all set to continue their good run on a green wicket. The onus is now on the batsmen to step up and ensure no collapses take place.