You can take the cricket out of the WACA Ground but not the WACA Ground out of the cricket. One of the most defining characteristics of the WACA Ground was its pitch, and Perth Stadium is now making its debut with feverish anticipation around the pitch. Four of the nine questions put to Virat Kohli in his pre-match press conference centred around the pitch. The curator Brett Sipthorpe has said they are trying to deliver the fastest, bounciest pitch they can, with no commercial pressures to make the Test go the distance.
One of the curious things about this Perth pitch is the amount of grass on it. The WACA Ground was known for its bounce, but it used to be a hard, brown surface. This one could add seam movement to the bounce. The pitch has left India excited. They have prior experience of a similar quick and bouncy pitch in Johannesburg earlier this year. So bouncy that it bordered on the dangerous, with play even stopped for a while. With the quick bowlers at India's disposals, Kohli was almost salivating at the prospect of playing on a pitch that is not shaved of the lush green look it wore on the match eve.
"I was pretty happy to see the pitch the way it is, I hope no more grass is taken off it," Kohli said. "That would mean that the first three days would be very lively. We as a team are pretty happy with that. We just have to challenge ourselves as a batting unit and play positively and back the bowlers to do what they did at Adelaide. I think this pitch is going to offer significantly more than the one at Adelaide. That is something we are very excited about.
"We certainly get more excited than nervous looking at lively pitches. We understand that we have a bowling attack that can bowl out the opposition now. When you have four, five bowlers at the peak of their ability, it is always a great feeling to have that in the side. And for us as batsmen also it gives us a lot of motivation and boosts us up that we can put in those significant match-winning performances because we have so much belief in our bowling unit right now and we know that if we bat well, we will definitely get the result we want.
"It is a very exciting phase to be in, but something we need to build on. We cannot be complacent and be satisfied with just one win. We need to keep repeating the good things to win a series. Away is always challenging but even if you want to win games at home, you need to be consistent and that is something that we are working on."
Johannesburg remains a big inspiration for India. "I have played all around the world for ten years now, and I have never played on a wicket like the one at Johannesburg, to be honest," Kohli said. "I have played at Perth as well in 2012 but it was not even close to what Johannesburg was. Look we are not alien to pitches like these and we have played on them in the past and this is nothing new for us. We know what to expect on a pitch like this and as I said on a lively wicket where there is grass on the pitch and the surface being hard, you are as much in the game as the opposition.
"And there are no favourites, whichever team plays well and whichever team is brave enough to tackle these conditions wins on tough wickets. We are definitely confident about the percentage of chances we have and we are going to build on that."
It obviously helps to have fast bowlers who are fit and accurate. "I guess I am just lucky that when they are at their peak I am the captain," Kohli said. "To be honest, I haven't gone scouting for them, they have been playing for a while and it is just that these five have come into their own when I was the captain. So I am not going to sit here and take credit for unleashing someone. They have been working hard on their game and as a captain, I am really proud to have these guys at the peak of their powers.
"As a captain, I am just grateful that these guys are at their peak time right now and it is helping Indian cricket. The way they have bowled on the last three tours, it is amazing. They are hungry for wickets and are not giving away easy runs and I am sure it is very exciting for those who are watching us play."
Brett Sipthorpe, the Perth Stadium curator, has promised a fast, bouncy pitch not dissimilar to the one in the only Shield game at this debutant stadium. That match produced a four-day finish with scores of 261, 198, 253 and 212. Hosts Western Australia sent New South Wales in only to regret the decision. Thirty-two of the 40 wickets fell to pace, but Nathan Lyon took seven wickets in the match for New South Wales. Trent Copeland, who played in the game, wrote he was reminded of the old WACA Ground pitch. While this has more grass than the usual WACA Ground pitches, Sipthorpe predicts similar pace and bounce.
"We've just been told to make it fast, make it bouncy if you can and run with it," Sipthorpe said. "I don't know what's happened in the past, I've heard lots of rumours about commercial pressures and that sort of stuff, but I've had no correspondence about that. We're just trying to produce the bounciest pitch we can.
"The players' assessment from the Shield game was very much the same as across the road, which was great. It's basically what we've been asked to do: provide pace, bounce, a bit of live grass and let's play cricket."
Sipthorpe doesn't expect it to crack as much as the Shield game surface did, but they are aiming for all the other attributes. "We're aiming for it to be identical to what we had in that game," Sipthorpe said. "That was a perfect day one for us. Jhye Richardson took eight, and Kurtis Patterson got a hundred. You can make runs if you want to grind it out but the bowlers have the upper hand, and that's what you want to see on day one.
"We do a lot of testing, so we've got a lot of benchmarked data that says this is very similar to what we had for the Shield. So we're confident in how it'll play."