Justin Langer
Justin Langer (AFP Photo)

Australia coach Justin Langer on Monday expressed surprise that the ICC had rated the Perth pitch ‘average’, saying Test cricket becomes “boring” in the absence of balance between bat and ball.

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“I was really surprised (about Perth rating). A couple of deliveries stayed low, but I thought it was entertaining Test cricket. That was the fastest pitch I’ve ever seen in Perth and I’ve been there a long time,” he said.

Australia won the second Test against India in Perth to restore parity in the four-match series.

About the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), venue for the third Test, he offered caution knowing how the pitch plays out over the course of five days. “It’s great to see some grass. I’ve said forever the most important thing in Test cricket are the pitches. If you have great pitches you’ll have contest between bat and ball, then Test cricket will be alive and well.

“If we play on flat wickets then it becomes a boring game and that’s from someone who loves Test cricket. Hopefully it’s a contest between bat and ball because it’s important, not just for this series but also for world cricket.”

Langer was full of praise for Nathan Lyon who has taken 16 wickets in two Tests and has been a pivotal member of the attack. He talked up his duel with Kohli, whom Lyon has dismissed seven times in Test cricket.

“I hope it’s 11 by the end of the series because we know Virat is another level. That hundred in the first innings is an unbelievable Test innings. He’s a great player and great bowlers get out the great batsmen.

“They are great players for a reason because they stand up under pressure. Kohli does that, and Nathan Lyon doing it at the moment. He’s turned into a world-class bowler. The other thing about him is there’s some real confidence and he shows great leadership.

“He hasn’t got a title at the moment – and his fielding is like a gazelle. He seems really settled off the field and he’s having a big impact on it.”

The rubber is pegged at 1-1, with India winning the first Test at Adelaide and then Australia claiming the second in Perth. “We fought hard in Adelaide without the result so it’s disheartening. Then to win one, it’s nice to get rewarded for the work the boys are doing. There were some really good signs in Perth,” he said.

Australia will have a decision to make as allrounder Mitchell Marsh looks poised to get in the side in place of Peter Handscomb who has looked out of sorts.

“In a perfectly balanced side you have someone who can bowl some overs so Mitch becomes an attractive commodity on a wicket, unlike Adelaide and Perth were we knew it would be an even contest.

“Our pacers had been lucky, they have bowled less overs than the Indians at the moment, particularly Jasprit Bumrah, and the more we can look after those guys the better. It will come down to that decision,” Langer added.

He said that the duo has their own strengths, but the final call will be made keeping the balance of the side in mind. “We weight up all those things. Pete’s a very good player of spin bowling and Mitch is a good player of spin too. They are the hard decisions. You generally talk about one position and they are the ones that give you the most headaches.”

The war of words between Tim Paine and Virat Kohli was a throwback to the heydays of Australian cricket for Langer. “I loved watching that. We saw a bit of Aussie humour – call it sledging, banter, what you like. There was a bit of humour to it, and we pride ourselves on that. The great days I have seen in Australian cricket, that’s all it is.

“It’s so much fun, that’s why when people tell me ‘there can’t be any speaking out on the ground’. I say it’d make it boring, like playing on a flat wicket,” Langer said.

Kohli’s heated exchanges with his Australian counterpart Paine in the second Test have been a subject of discussion.