Bouncy pitch awaits India at WACA
If India are to make a comeback in the series, they will have to do it the hard way. The WACA curator feels the pitch is getting back its original - famously quick and bouncy - characteristics, and expects this track to behave similar to the one used in the Ashes last season, when Australia played four quicks and won the Test inside four days.
Australia have lost James Pattinson to injury but have the services of Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc should they want to go in with four fast bowlers for the third Test, starting on Friday the 13th. Starc made a case for himself with figures of 3 for 17 in a rain-curtailed BBL game on Sunday night in Sydney.
"We are hoping it will certainly be like last year," Cameron Sutherland, the curator, said. "It [playing four fast bowlers] won't be the wrong decision if the preparation goes as it is expected to."
The proper preparation will begin on Tuesday. Right now the pitch is hard to tell from the outfield. Sutherland is happy with what is underneath. "It is pretty hard underneath," he said. "We have already done a lot of work just getting the grass where we want, coverage-wise. The actual rolling starts tomorrow."
In the BBL game at the WACA on Sunday night, Perth Scorchers scored 184 and won by 42. Expect batting in the Test to be tougher, though. India won the last Test they played here, but this is expected to be a different surface altogether. "We're expecting more pace and bounce than the last time," Sutherland said. "Good cricket wicket last time, but we hope to have maybe an extra 20% pace and bounce."
That won't be music to India's ears, beleaguered as they are by six straight losses away from home. "That's what we are aiming for. We are in a better place now than when India came here the last time," Sutherland said. "We have redeveloped the whole wicket block over the last four years, and we are starting to get some really good results.
"We have changed our soil type, tried to align it to the traditional WACA characteristics. Probably more so pre-1980s, and it has taken a fair while to achieve that. We have also changed the grass type and how we prepare the wicket. We have tinkered with the whole model basically, and come up with something we think is pretty close to the mark."
Sutherland's dream pitch is a kiss-off, where the ball just kisses the surface and bounces off. He says they are getting close to it. "We weren't getting any cracking," he said of the days when Perth lost its bounce, relatively speaking. "We were getting some hardness, but not really hard. We weren't getting grass recovery, which made it hard to get a surface where we could get some nice kiss-off, where the ball hits and carries through. We are pretty close to achieving that now. Mostly that comes from the soil. It's a combination with the grass as well. One allows the other to work in harmony. So we are pretty close to where we want to be."
However, Michael Hussey, a Western Australian himself, is not getting carried away with the pitch. "I hope it's a nice, fast bouncy pitch," he said. "We play those conditions very well. It is very different to what the Indian players are used to from their home country. But having said that, they've got unbelievably experienced players who have been in Australia before, performed well in Australia before, so I expect them to adapt to the conditions pretty quickly."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo