By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The turners at Chennai and Hyderabad had the Australian batsmen in a tizzy, but expect Mohali to be a different kettle of fish. Unlike other Indian pitches, the surface at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium has consistently had bite and assistance for the seamers. It’s a lively wicket that has the potential to produce even contests between bat and ball — something Michael Clarke and his men would fancy at this stage.
Over the years, Mohali has been witness to some fantastic encounters with the last game being the stand-out. Australia return to the venue that saw VVS Laxman snatch the game from their grasp in a dramatic finale in 2010. Given the controversies that have marred the build-up, the memories of their previous visit might also play on their minds. However, they can take heart from history which suggests that the visiting fast bowlers have had a major say in the Tests held at Mohali.
Mohali hosted its first Test match in 1994 when the West Indies came around. Backing the good work done by the batsmen, the West Indian pace attack grabbed a lead. Kenny Benjamin then produced a fantastic fifer in the fourth innings to win the game for them. On its first outing, the wicket gave ample evidence of what it had for the pacemen.
Fast-forward to 1999, a Dion Nash inspired Kiwi bowling attack bundled India out for 83 on the first day of the Test match. Nash finished with figures of six for 27 — the best analysis at the venue. Four years down the line, Nash’s countryman Daryl Tuffey troubled the Indians and made them work hard to save the Test match.
The performances discussed are those that stood out and made a huge impact. However, there have been other contributions by fast-bowlers that have also helped their side make inroads. Usually, they have succeeded as a unit there and produced results for their side. Some of the Indian fast bowlers have also delivered fantastic spells there, but the spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are by far the most successful bowlers at the venue.
Keeping the facts in perspective, Australia would hope Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc deliver the goods for them. Siddle who returns to the scene of his Test debut, and would be buoyed to rise to the occasion. Starc has been very impressive and could trouble the Indian batsmen. Having said that, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar would be licking their lips and waiting to have a go at the Australian batsmen. It is a chance for Ishant to impress as his recent track record has been sub-standard.
Through all that, it is interesting to note that Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson, the two axed players, have enjoyed a good time at Mohali in previous encounters. In two Tests, Watson has managed to score a hundred and two fifties. On the other hand, Johnson’s fifer during their last visit kept Australia in the game as India looked poised to take the lead. Without them in the mix, Australia is certainly poorer and they might have let their trump cards go.
In the ten Test matches played on this ground, India have emerged victorious on four occasions and have been beaten once. However, what that doesn’t tell you is that some of the visiting teams haven’t let India dominate and have given them a few scares. Clarke’s men are eying redemption in this testing phase and on this tour there is no better place than Mohali. They need to win the battle in their minds before walking out to defend the honour of the Baggy Green.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
First Published: March 14, 2013, 9:29 am