Bini Sathyan

The Indian caravan consisting of wounded and bloodied gladiators reluctantly moves to Perth, Western Australia. They include centurions, defenders, destroyers, slingers, marauders, specialists, pacers and the lot.

Bruised and wounded, heads hung in shame they must have dragged themselves to the Western part of the large Australian continent. Till some time back they were the most feared men in the dusty bowls of Asia. The East and the West shuddered to face them in their dusty brown backyards south of the great Himalayas and the mightiest of them considered it as the final frontier.

Expect to see a lot of ducking at the WACA. Image: firstpost.com

Everything changed six months ago when they crossed the seas and went to conquer a far away land called England and met some tall Englishmen who were quick and deceived them with fiery balls that swung in and out and thrashed the pulp out of them with the English willow. Defeated in four battles, the Indian gladiators were driven out which also resulted in their fall from grace. Glory lost, they returned to regain some strength by practicing in the dusty bowls against lesser mortals. The overconfident ageing lot, led by a lad known as the Ice Man and guided by some God, now, set their sights Down Under.

The first battle was lost after they had the opponent pinned down. They just could not hold on for long. Where they were expected to hang in and then go for the kill, they offered the jugular instead. In the second battle, initial advantage was gained as the spin of the coin favoured them. But then the quick young pacers hit them hard and they surrendered meekly. No lessons learnt from England.

Two battles in which they could last only eight days and they seem to meet the same fate they suffered at the hands of the Englishmen. Kicked and bounced around in unfamiliar terrain in the first battle only to be beaten black and blue in the second one. Now they have 10 days to redeem their lost pride and regain their lost glory.

But it seems to be a very tough battle ahead. The fight against the opposition will get tougher from here. The enemy has acquired the proportions of Goliath. They are stronger after two victories, the last one better than the first. The invaders are weakened further with the battering given by the local toughnuts. The terrain gets rougher. And as they prepare for the battles ahead they are demoralized even more. The reason is that the battleground is the most treacherous piece of terrain in the whole world. It is danger lurking beneath your feet and stretching out in front of you. Welcome to the WACA. They have got demons to conquer, not just in the 22 yards but the ones lurking in their minds too.

The WACA pitch in Perth is infamous for its treacherous behavior and is considered the fastest and bounciest in the world. This is well documented in history many times when McGrath and Merv Hughes let out their fury and blew away the opposition teams by taking 8 wickets in an innings. Both of them had bedazzled the opposition with a hatrick too. Another example is the jaw rattling pace of the not so courteous Curtly Ambrose. After the fearsome foursome of the West Indies left the arena, they had another fearsome man in Curtly Ambrose and he lived up to his reputation in WACA when he once broke the jaw of a tail ender and in another instance he took 7 wickets in an innings. Then came Mitchell Johnson of Australia who also went on to take 8 wickets in an innings here.

This said about the bowling, this pitch seems to be equally famous for batting. It was here that Lara’s world record of 375 was broken by Mathew Hayden. Another Australian great Gilchrist has created a sensation here by scoring the 2nd fastest test hundred falling just behind the great Viv Richards. South Africa too made history when it achieved victory here against Australia by chasing down 414 which is the second highest run chase in history.

India can take heart from the fact that the last Test that they played here was won by them. It was here that India started the beginning of the end of Australian domination in world cricket by beating them and ending their world record winning streak of 16 Tests. India can also take hope from the fact that Australia had lost their last two Tests here and one of them was to India.

But all this is history. For history to repeat, the unit has to play as a team. Here is a bunch that is in pursuit of individual glory wherever they go. And the Australians are well aware of this.

The scenario does not seem to be different even now. And the Australians know very well to take advantage of this. So they will be looking to go all out at WACA. They are planning to try an all pace attack to hunt down the visitors when they try to redeem themselves. And the Indians have practiced driving well in the go-karting tracks. It will be interesting to see how much this will aid them at WACA. So it will be a battle of a team against 11 individuals. And it will be interesting to see who goes down and under.

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