Sunday Scan: Can Australia make a Perth out of Feroz Shah Kotla?

Test cricket can draw some crazy parallels with history repeating itself in a very strange fashion. While some of them seem obvious, others just are a lot more subtle. India have taken a commanding lead in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the first half of the fiery contest drew to a close and it seems that there are a few parallels with the way this series is going to the one in Australia a year ago or so. The biggest similarity that Australia would be looking towards is the fact that they are going into the “Indian Fortress” called Feroz Shah Kotla with one test match down much like how India went into the “Australian Fortress” called Perth when they toured last Down Under.

Perth was Australia’s way of scaring away people and knocking their heads off with a track which was renowned for its pace and bounce. This very track gave the world a legend called Tendulkar as a 17 year old defied the fastest and bounciest track in the world to score a fabulous century. Perth was Australia’s biggest home-turf advantage and it was one place where visiting teams were cut to bits for over two decades. That was until India found a way to beat the mighty Aussies and crack open the Fortress in 2007-08 series.

Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi is India’s version of Perth. India has not lost here since 1987 and the opposition that beat them then was the mighty West Indies- the best cricket team ever in the history of the game. Last time India met Australia here was in 1996 and India won under Tendulkar with Anil Kumble bagging 9 wickets in the match. If the current Indian Captain would have an option of rolling up this wicket and carrying it with him across the world, then it would be the Kotla. So, can the Australian’s breach the Indian Fortress?

While India found a way in Perth, it would be harder for Australia to find gaping holes in the Kotla Fortress. Australians might want to play aggressive brand of cricket, but the lack of Glen McGrath and Shane Warne, men who could play the holding game, is hurting the bad. Ponting still seems to struggle in India and Zaheer is well and truly inside the head of big Matthew Hayden. Make no mistake about it, the Aussies will fight back. But they just do not seem to have the two weapons needed to breach the Kotla barrier- Big scoring batsman against quality spin and quality spinners to take 20 wickets.

India on the other hand will do well just to pick Kumble back into the team and maybe drop one of the batsmen for Amit Mishra. That is easier said than done though, but with Kumble getting 55 wickets in previous 6 matches at Kotla at 15 a piece and best of 10/74, it would be hard to look past him. Australia will need what India showed to win at Perth- resolve, determination and grit. They need to put away all the talk as now is the time to walk the walk. It might be still an unfair comparison as the Perth pitch did mellow down over the years. But for Australia, there will be no mellowing down of turn at the Kotla!