How four was a crowd at Perth

karthikkrishnaswamy Posted: Jan 18, 2012 at 0128 hrs
Perth When David Warner batted late on Day One of the Perth Test, he seemed to play tricks with time. When MS Dhoni brought on Ishant Sharma for the first time in the match, a lot of voices in and around the press box fumed about how late he was coming on. Considering that his style of bowling was made for the WACA wicket, it did seem strange that he was being brought on for the first time with Australia 88 for no loss.

It took a while to register that India had bowled only 12 overs by then. Such was the extent of Warnerís assault. Coming on at this stage, there seemed little Ishant could do. Off the fourth ball of his over, the chunky left-handed opener deposited a length ball straight back for six.

Itís a situation other Indian captains have faced in the past. Nearly all of them, however, would have had a spinner to call on to change the pace, change the trajectory, change something. Dhoni, by virtue of fielding four fast men, didnít have that option.

It was definitely a weird feeling to see the team sheets ahead of the match, to see no spinner lining up for either side. Especially the Indians. The last time they fielded four specialist fast bowlers was twenty years ago at Sydney. Then, they at least had a genuine spin-bowling all rounder in Ravi Shastri.

The day before Perth, Michael Clarke had said it would take an unusually green wicket for him to defy two of his most dearly held principles ó of nearly always batting first after winning the toss, and always picking a spinner.

Backing beliefs

The WACA wicket turned out green enough for Clarke to go back on his beliefs, but Australia had no real worries about their pace attack, apart from a concern over Ryan Harris making it through a Test match without breaking down. In that sense, it helped to have an extra pacer to share the workload.

India, moreover, had been distinctly uncomfortable against the pacers in the first two Tests. Off spinner Nathan Lyon, on a couple of occasions, had released pressure built by the three seamers. In the second innings at Sydney, his introduction had allowed VVS Laxman to break the shackles en route to a fifty.

For India, the seam bowlers apart from Zaheer Khan had been inconsistent during the first two Tests, threatening in patches in helpful conditions, not particularly incisive with the old ball and erratic when the wicket flattened out.

Ashwin hadnít looked like picking up a bagful of wickets either. But after two Tests, he had been Indiaís second-most economical bowler behind Zaheer, and the third best on either side, with only Hilfenhaus giving away less this series.

Moreover, Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, the fourth and fifth seamers in the squad, were only there because of injuries to Praveen Kumar and Varun Aaron. Neither Vinay nor Mithun possessed any weapon ó high pace, steep bounce, two-way swing or seam, left-arm angle ó that marked them out as a threat to the Aussies. Whoever Dhoni picked would at best be a steady medium-fast stock bowler.

Gentle dibbly dobblies

Against someone in the mood Warner was in, steady medium-fast could disappear quickly. When Vinay came on for the first time, Warner took a step forward to Vinayís fourth ball in Test cricket, a perfectly respectable length ball on off stump, and muscled it over the long on boundary.

Vinay continued to run in earnestly and bend his back. But Warner kept hoicking him to cow corner or thereabouts. At that point, Dhoni might have wished for someone who could do something slightly different, an Ashwin, who might have responded to the Twenty20 onslaught with some Twenty20 bowling, or an Ojha, who might have attempted a couple of variations in pace and loop. At the very least, a spinner would have kept the over rate in check.

Itís easy to be wise after the fact. But the warning signs of what could go wrong if the move backfired, were as clear before Warner exploded as they are now.

Cinderella men: Injured Aus pacers in search of perfect-fit boots
Baffled by the spate of injuries that has sidelined its young crop of pacers, Cricket Australia is investigating whether the boots these bowlers use are causing the foot problems that have ruined their season. Young fast bowlers Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood are all nursing foot injuries and incidentally use the same brand of boots.

Australia Team Performance Manager Pat Howard said that though the footwear is not yet been declared the reason for the injuries, it is one of the potential causes that are being investigated. \"It\'s a fair question, we\'re not suggesting it is the reason, but it is something that has to be reviewed as part of the overall,\" Howard told ESPNcricinfo. \"Workloads, body management, history, age, footwear, all those things have got to be reviewed as part of the bigger picture.Ē

Cummins is battling heel pain since his Test debut against South Africa in Johannesburg and has also shown signs of stress fractures. Pattinson, who has 25 wickets in four Tests, also complained of foot pain during the second Test of the ongoing series against India. He was ruled out after scans revealed stress hot spots in the metatarsal bone.

Unchanged Aus for Adelaide

Australia named an unchanged 12-man squad for the fourth Test in Adelaide. But spinner Nathan Lyon, who was 12th man in Perth as the Australians went with a four-man pace attack, is almost certain to start on the Adelaide Ovalís spin friendly pitch starting Tuesday. (PTI)