Australia v India 2007-08 / News

India tour of Australia 2007-08

Pacy Perth has tongues wagging

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Perth

January 14, 2008

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The sight of the ball flying around in Australia's recent Twenty20 game against New Zealand has triggered a hype © Getty Images
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Chris Rogers has called it hellish and Adam Gilchrist thinks it has the fire to shock. Gary Kirsten, India's coach in waiting, has included it in the document he's prepared for the team. Dennis Lillee has ensured it regains some of its old glory and, going by all the chatter, Shaun Tait is obviously licking his lips. Welcome to the WACA, the ground that houses the world's most popular pitch.

So quick is it supposed to be that Australia are likely to go in without a specialist spinner for the first time in a home Test in 16 years. The last time it happened was at this ground against the same opponent, back in 1992, when left-arm quick Mike Whitney ran through the batting line-up with 7 for 27 in the second innings. It's fondly remembered as the Test where Sachin Tendulkar played his finest innings but the result was quite gruesome: India crushed by 300 runs.

The pitch at Perth has slowed down over the years but the sight of the ball flying around in Australia's recent Twenty20 game against New Zealand has triggered a hype. "This particular wicket has been relaid with some of the soil that they had at the WACA when it was in its heyday in the late 1970s and early 80s," Whitney told Cricinfo. "So this wicket will be bouncy."

Cameron Sutherland, the curator, tries his best to play down the build-up but drops enough hints to suggest a red-hot surface. "We did relay the pitches in April last year and there will be a bit more pace than a couple of years back but nothing extraordinary," he said. "There has been a fair bit of pressure [in] the past two-and-a-half years I have been here, and some of the wickets have just not worked out for us. The pitch we are using has had its top taken off and [we have] relaid some of that soil over the top and regrassed it.

"It was probably as hard this morning as it was on day one of the Ashes last year, two days out it is just about playing around with the surface now - it is pretty solid. I think it will have a bit more pace. We like to think it will keep its pace more over the four or five days. Last year after day three it became a bit hard toil for the bowlers when it slowed down a bit."

Gilchrist, who's played most of his cricket here, hoped his side could open up a few scars from the past. Only Tendulkar has played a Test here but others have experienced a one-day hammering on their tours in 2004 and 2000.

"A number of these players played a ODI here a few years ago and that pitch had plenty of fire," said Gilchrist. "We would be looking to open up any little scars or wounds that they might have had from that day because we bowled them out quite comprehensively. It's probably the bounce that's the main thing that surprises you when you first come out here."

The strip to be used for the Test hasn't been played on this season. A domestic Twenty20 final was held on the adjacent track, one that produced a high-scoring game. Kirsten hoped India's batsmen don't overly analyse the pitch and urged them to draw on their experience of various conditions instead. "You can get beaten up about it and it can affect you," he said. "That was exactly what I experienced. If you got in it became the most magnificent place to bat. There was pace on the pitch and you didn't have to hit the ball too hard, something I wasn't very good at."

Sourav Ganguly, meanwhile, was again down with fever - the third such instance in six weeks - and did not participate in India's net session. He was taken to a local Perth doctor, accompanied by Chetan Chauhan, the Indian manager, and physio John Gloster. "He's changed the medicines and, if I'm not better by the morning, then I've got to undergo a blood test," Ganguly, who also has a sore throat, told Kolkata's Telegraph.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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