India needs to conquer inner demons before exorcising those on the pitch

In the past, India has won on quicker surfaces like Johannesburg Test in 2006. But given their low morale at the moment, it isn’t surprising to see India being dismissed for 161 at Perth © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Under Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur, Australia seems to have learnt to practise mental disintegration of the opposition without making the atmosphere unpleasant. Or maybe, they don’t need to use more ‘advanced’ tactics to break the will of lambs to the slaughter such as this Indian team. 

 

Like in 2008, Australia literally yelled from the rooftops about the Perth surface.  About sourcing the soil content from a different location to bring back the zing of the early 90s.  All those details may well be true and I don’t intend to dispute those. But more refined was the trick of leaving some grass on the surface. In fact, so green was the surface about three or four days before match day that it was almost indistinguishable from the infield around it. 

 

Photographs of the same were splashed in the media along with reports of playing four pace bowlers again. It was all convincing enough to actually make India drop Ravichandran Ashwin and play a fourth seamer, Vinay Kumar. Yeah…four pace bowlers in an Indian team! You could be forgiven for thinking it was West Indies of the 80s on parade! 

 

No great demons were evident in the pitch. It was discernibly faster and bouncier than both the Melbourne and Sydney pitches. But India won on a quicker surface in Johannesburg in 2006, so that should not have been alarming. Given their low morale at the moment, though, it seems to have done the trick. India got bowled out for 161 and watched Australia nearly get into a lead without any loss by stumps. David Warner’s brutal straight six off Vinay Kumar probably summed up the gulf between the sides.

 

The fuss and ‘concerns’ over Perth ground staff hosting a beer party on the surface gave an insight into the team’s state of mind. How much the team shared the sentiments of Rajiv Shukla of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), we don’t know. But within the first 30 minutes or so of play, it was evident that this was no Sabina Park 1998 (England vs West Indies, match abandoned due to dangerous pitch). If at all there were any demons, they were in the minds of the players and their faltering technique.

 

Rahul Dravid fell over to a yorker and Sachin Tendulkar played all over and missed a full length delivery heading for middle stump. Gautam Gambhir eventually couldn’t resist his trademark nibble outside off and rightly perished to it, after getting a start.  Strangely enough, Virat Kohli looked the most composed of the Indian batting line-up on Friday. He once again fell to rather elementary tactics from Australia to choke the flow of runs.  Hopefully, he will learn to show more patience at such times and curb the impulse to constantly dominate the bowlers. 

 

Australia were disciplined and probing all through the Indian innings, except for patches of profligacy from Mitchell Starc. But more and more, they only seem to have to turn up to bowl to clean up the Indian batting. At Melbourne, they had to produce some beauties to purchase wickets. At Perth, the only real beauty was the one that got Virender Sehwag, a superb outswinger pitched too full to be read in the air and adjusted for. A total of 161 was simply not a par score even considering Perth’s demonic reputation and the Australian openers wasted no time in showing why. 

 

As the Indian bowlers sprayed the ball instead of probing the corridor of uncertainty, not just Warner but even the phlegmatic Ed Cowan plundered runs at will. How many more centuries will the Australians strike this time?

 

A great batting line-up is down on its knees and sinking to defeat with a whimper rather than a valiant roar. Thankfully for them, the Future Tours Programme (FTP) schedule doesn’t have too many more overseas nightmares in the near future. 

 

They would perhaps also be grateful to Perth curator, Cameron Sutherland, for the fracas of Thursday night because it gave them, at least in the eyes of more jingoistic followers, somewhere to hide for the moment.

 

(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and till date he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.)