The pitch. The hype. The WACA.
Western Australian Cricket Association. No other venue in test cricket evokes the buzz that this serene looking ground, situated in probably the most isolated big city in the world does. Cricket writers suddenly turn war correspondents using phrases like “lethal”, “pace battery” in describing what’s in store for batsmen. Talk of “all-pace attacks” start to do the rounds. Cricinfo posted a picture 2 days before the game with the curator crouched in front of what looked a section of the outfield but was in fact the playing surface.
Relative newcomers to the game would be forgiven in thinking that maybe the ground had been built on an old improperly cleared minefield.
A cursory look at two numbers puts things in perspective. In 38 test matches at the WACA, 1234 wickets have fallen, 32.5 wickets / test match at an average of 32.58 runs per wicket. In comparison, at the innocuous sounding Wankhede in Mumbai, 725 wickets have fallen in 22 tests (33 wickets / game) at an average of 29.58 runs per wicket.
Hard bouncy surfaces are not the stuff of nightmares for good batsmen, and the Indian lineup is a good one, make no mistake. The ball coming on to the bat with true bounce on a fast outfield should get more than a couple of the batsmen thinking “big-daddy hundreds” as R Shastri likes to call them. Batsmen can play back to fuller length deliveries knowing that the ball will still arc over the stumps should they miss the line. That said, seam bowlers have the luxury of knowing that any edges will carry to the slips and can afford to bowl a fuller length while still hitting the shoulder of the bat.
What can unravel visiting teams is uncertain footwork from batsmen standing and hanging their bats and bowlers pitching too short. The Indian team will do well to block out the hype surrounding the nature of the pitch and just play the ball instead of the tons of newsprint. What will be harder for India is to get the likes of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma to bowl a full length, which with a hint of seam or swing can be incisive.
With 31 results in 38 test matches, one thing is certain. There is no place for timid defensive cricket at the WACA.