Victory in the Adelaide test created a euphoric moment which every Indian cricket fan is still savouring. The Australians, however, are basking in the grit and spirit displayed by the Baggy Greens in the fight-back on the final day.
The confidence creates buoyancy but too much of it can be parlous. In case Australia reverses the results in Perth test, the heroes of Indian Team will become the punching bag for the ephemeral fans.
As you can recall that I had suggested Kuldeep Yadav should be in the team to finish off the tail. He was not picked and his absence nearly jeopardised India’s chances. Similarly I had said that Rishabh Pant would face problems against Nathan Lyon, and the results are there for all to see.
The conditions at Perth
Before coming to team selection, let us discuss the pitch at the brand-new Optus Stadium. It is being compared to the old WACA pitch, which had a spongy bounce. Cutting and pulling will be the order of day and tall bowlers will be a handful.
In the matches preceding to the second test, Lyon did strike against Western Australia and it confirmed that there will be a true bounce.
If we compare the last two India-Australia tests at Perth, startling revelations will emerge.
In the 2008 Test, which India won, Rahul Dravid was the lone contributor. He had little assistance from Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman. RP Singh and Anil Kumble were the main destroyers in the bowling department, courtesy away movement and bounce. Ishant Sharma, meanwhile, was a disappointment in that Test. For Australia Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee were the primary wicket-takers.
In the 2012 Test, only Virat Kohli could score and India succumbed to an innings loss. Ben Hilfenhaus, with his ball movement, toyed with the Indian batting lineup as he claimed eight scalps in the Test. Mitchell Star, however, had a fag run as his dippers did no damage whatsoever in that game. For India, Ishant was again out of sorts but Umesh Yadav rose to the occasion, taking a fifer.
The XI that India should field
So, in view of history at Perth I recommend some changes. Furthermore, India has won only when they have batted first and one should think of the situation, when India has to save the match or win it in the fourth innings.
Kohli has always changed his team irrespective of winning combination.
Considering that, my team is a little radical. Opening should be done by Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul as they can both cut and pull. Further Rishabh can be a bunny of Lyon in later overs. Pant’s ability to lift the ball will help in the openers getting a quick 50-run partnership right from the start.
Murali Vijay needs to be dropped as no traditional opener has survived at Perth. His first innings failure at Adelaiede was uncharacteristic as he went for expansive drives rather than caressing. He should be preserved for later games, in case Pant fails.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are a delight at their positions.
At number six, I will still back Rohit as he has the capability to take us out of crisis. People were flabbergasted with his shot making in the first innings, but his 37 did contribute a lot to Pujara’s match winning knock.
At the crucial position of number seven, I am advocating the selection of Hanuma Vihari.
He can combat Lyon and provide support and play with tail enders. In case of a fourth innings chase he will prove to be an asset.
As Ashwin will continue at the expense of Kuldeep, Hanuma can fill in with some overs of decent spin too.
I do believe in the inclusion of Umesh Yadav at the expense of Ishant. He has failed twice at Perth and India needs a bowler with pace and seam movement. Ishant can restrict scoring but as per Sheffield Shield matches, Perth will be low scoring as it is. Yadav, with his outswing, will prove to be a handful as he did in 2012 and looks to be more effective.
Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have been an effective pair for India. Bumrah throwing at 150, surpassing Starc, was a delight to watch in Adelaide. Shami, moving the ball both ways and with his targeted bouncers, was a treat to watch. They are automatic inclusions in my side.
I feel if India fields this team, they are bound to win. Looking at their questionable selection, however, they may continue with the same team. With Perth promising to be a low-scoring venue, even a small slip can be the catalyst that turns a win into a loss