India vs Australia: Grassy Optus Stadium pitch in focus as 'excited' Virat Kohli and Co look to continue momentum in Perth

Rarely has there been so much hype around a pitch in Australia. But the way both captains talked about it in the pre-game press conference suggests that the 22-yard strip will play a huge role in dictating the result.

Gaurav Joshi, Dec 13, 2018 13:34:01 IST

On the eve of the 2008 Test match in Perth a local paper in Australia carried the headline "Tait vows to get the Indians jumping". Then, on the morning of the Test match, all the discussion circulated around how Shaun Tait was destined to break the 100 mph (160 Km/hr) and if Twitter was around in that era the hashtag #unleashthebeast would probably have been trending in the lead up to the Test.

There are no such headlines as of now, but the talk of the town has already shifted to the 22-yard strip in the middle of the spanking new Optus Stadium across the Swann River. Ever since India landed in Perth on Tuesday locals were already talking about a potential three day Test due to the grassy nature of the pitch. A theory that seems to have been accentuated after the way India captain Virat Kohli described the surface at the pre-game press conference.

Australian players and support staff have a look at the Optus Stadium pitch on the eve of the 2nd Test against India. AFP

Australian players and support staff have a look at the Optus Stadium pitch on the eve of the 2nd Test against India. AFP

"I was pretty happy to see the pitch the way it is, I hope no more grass is taken off it. That would mean that the first three days would be very lively. I think this pitch is going to offer significantly more than it did at Adelaide. That is something we are very excited about." Kohli said

The nature of the pitch might have excited the Indian captain, but the news of both Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma not being available for selection will affect the continuity. Ashwin suffered a left abdominal strain in Adelaide and Rohit is yet to recover after jarring his back on the fifth day of the first Test. It means that India will be forced to make two changes to the team that won in Adelaide.

Hanuma Vihari is a straight swap for Rohit, but the big question for the Indian team management is if they opt to play a spinner or choose four fast bowlers. Given the nature of the pitch, it is almost certain that the final position will be the contest between Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav. The amount of grass is bound to aid seam movement and that means Bhuvneshwar is in the box seat to feature in the playing XI.

India has had plenty of experience in recent times playing on spiteful pitches and they can look no further than their victory on a brutal Johannesburg pitch in January this year for inspiration. One thing is for sure, this team under Kohli will not be intimidated by the pace and the bounce, in fact, they will revel in such situations. Kohli knows that if his batsmen can fight it out and post a decent total on the board, his speed merchants can expose the weak Australian batting.

On the other hand, a sight of the quick pitch will have the likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc licking their lips. While India is likely to head down the channel of playing four fast bowlers, Australia is expected to stick with Nathan Lyon.

The challenge for Australia is can their batsmen conjure up sufficient runs against the Indian bowlers? Australia hasn't had a great record on pitches that have aided seam movement in recent times and without Steve Smith or David Warner, it will be a huge challenge for this inexperienced batting line-up against the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami.

Aaron Finch had a long private net session two days before the game. Peter Handscomb batted on the centre wicket at the WACA with a camera at the non-striker's end recording every move. The Australian batsmen are keen to fine-tune their technique in the lead up to the Test match knowing the pitch will aid seam bowling.

Rarely has there been so much hype around a pitch in Australia. But the way both captains talked about it in the pre-game press conference suggests that the 22-yard strip will play a huge role in dictating the result.

But the truth of the matter is that, it will be up to bowlers to continuously apply the pressure and for the batsmen to shelve their egos. Runs will be priceless, but as will be bowlers' execution. Slips catching will also be important and India can ill afford any misses behind the stumps. Bravery will be rewarded and over-enthusiasm will be lead to mistakes.

Ten years ago, all the hype in the lead up to that infamous 2008 Perth Test was about the pitch, but it was the superior skills of the Indian batsmen that dictated the result. Australia have taken a gamble of spicing up the pitch but it could easily backfire on them if their batsmen don't score enough runs.

Updated Date: Dec 13, 2018 13:39:11 IST







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