India mulling rare all-pace attack
India could take the rare step of playing four fast bowlers on a green WACA track. That was the only change the visitors were pondering to the combination that lost the first two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
VVS Laxman was never going to get dropped, but there were question marks over the persistence with Virat Kohli. However, in the lead-up to the third Test, Kolhi batted extensively in the nets, a clear sign that Rohit Sharma is unlikely to debut. On match eve, Rohit bowled for a long time before getting a few throw downs towards the end of the training session.
When asked if the nature of the pitch, expected to be about 20% quicker and bouncier than when India last played a Test in Perth, would change the team combination the captain MS Dhoni said it was likelier to happen in the bowling attack.
"We have to see how much grass is there [in the morning], and whether the spinner will get any kind of assistance," Dhoni said. "Accordingly the bowling department will be structured depending on the wicket."
India have not played four quicks in a Test since the SCG Test of 1991-92, when debutant Subroto Banerjee joined Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar and Javagal Srinath in the bowling department. Allrounder Ravi Shasrti was the only spinner. If India go for all-pace in Perth, they are likely to do so with only the part-timer Virender Sehwag as a spin option. In his only Test here, Sehwag bowled Adam Gilchrist round his legs during a two-wicket cameo.
This is the second time in two overseas tours that India are 2-0 down. The previous time they were whitewashed in England, and a similar result has been talked about ever since they were dismissed for 191 on the first day in Sydney. Dhoni said India were in a better space here than they were in England.
"At times you lose a few series," he said. "You lose a few games. As long as you are competing it is good. That's what you are supposed to do. At the end of the day, the team that has played consistently good cricket over the period will win the series or the game. In England, to some extent, we didn't compete to the extent we should have."
When asked if a whitewash in Australia would hurt more than the one in England, Dhoni joked that there was no better way of dying. He expected better, though. "We want to get back in this series," he said. "[In] England we weren't really there, so we didn't really perform to our potential. We have learned a lot from that series. We have learned a lot from this series also. Just that we need to implement it in the next two Test matches."
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is still at stake. India are the holders, and they will retain it if the series is drawn. However, it is a big ask to expect them to win the next two Tests. The various critics of the team don't expect them to do so, but Dhoni said the external criticism - of his captaincy, of the team unity, of their "fragility" - didn't affect them much.
"It is easier to look from outside, and comment on particular decisions," he said. "More often than not you have seen the result, and then comment on it. It's not about taking the best decision because more often than not the best decision depends on what happens after the time the decision has been taken. It's always about taking the good decision at the right time; honestly that's what I try to do. At times I go wrong, at times I don't go wrong. People feel I went wrong. It's part and parcel of leading a side."
There have been barbs at how some players went go-karting soon after a loss, and Michael Slater said recently that he felt India weren't hurting enough from the defeats. Dhoni said they were not going to weep for hours at the ground if that's what hurting meant.
"We are among the sides that practise a lot," he said. "We have been trying to reduce the hours in practice. We have not been able to do that. We are one side that spends close to four hours every day during the net sessions. We try to give the guys rest as much as possible. So all these recreational activities really help doing that."
About Brad Haddin's comments that the Indian players turn on each other easily, Dhoni said it was just his imagination. "As far as fights are concerned, I have never seen an Indian team fight," he said. "It's something that's happening after a few beers with the opposition. They are just sitting and dreaming of it. It has not happened. That's one thing we are really proud of. When we speak about the dressing-room atmosphere, and how we love each other's success, that has been the real strength of the Indian cricket team. And I don't see it moving in any other direction"
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo