One thing was evident from Indian captain Virat Kohli’s pitch... err... press conference in Perth on Thursday. This Indian team, under his captaincy, looks at green, pacy pitches as opportunities. That approach hasn’t always translated into wins, like it didn’t in the first two Tests in South Africa and, most significantly, at Lord’s in England this year. But that doesn’t stop Kohli from radiating confidence — not false bravado, but belief — that his team stands a genuine chance in such conditions.

So there was no surprise when he was asked in about eight or nine different variations about what he expects from this new pitch at the new stadium with his trusted bowling attack. Variations of questions about how his team saw the pitch that the curator has promised to be the bounciest possible track he can provide.

And Kohli’s answers were variations of one larger point — ‘you know what? I have got the personnel to deal with this, so bring it on.’

How things change

The mention of green pitch and India in the same sentence brings back memories of Sourav Ganguly and Nagpur. It’s just inevitable, really. Your mind is tuned to think that way. Now, no one knows the exact story of why Ganguly (and Harbhajan Singh) skipped the match on a green pitch in Nagpur other than the truths, untruths and urban legends spread from both camps since that fateful week when Rahul Dravid walked out for the toss and Australia walked away with their Final Frontier conquered. But the fact that the Indian camp was not happy (to put it mildly) with the curator is in no doubt. Ganguly made his displeasure apparent.

“I made the request but he hasn’t done it. It doesn’t look like he’s done much at all,” Ganguly said. “I wanted the grass taken off it but he has his own ideas. He hasn’t done enough. The last two pitches assisted the spinners but the curator here has his own ways.”  — Sourav Ganguly, regarding the Nagpur pitch in 2004.

Now, this is not to say the current Indian leadership would have reacted differently to a pitch not to their liking at home for such an high stakes game. We don’t know that for a fact. What we do know is that they have asked for bouncy pitches at home ahead of major overseas series. They have gone overseas and competed well on tracks that previously used to scare the life out of worried Indian fans. And there’s just one reason for that: the bowling attack.

“We certainly get more excited than nervous looking at lively pitches because we understand that we do have a bowling attack that can bowl the opposition out as much as they are convinced about their attack. When you have 4-5 bowlers who are at the peak of their ability, it is always the great feeling in the side. For us as batsmen also it gives a lot of motivation and gives boost to us that we can put up those match winning, significant batting performances because we have so much belief in our bowling unit right now that we understand that if we bat well, we definitely get the results that we want. So it’s a very exciting phase to be in and we need to build on.” 

— Virat Kohli, regarding the new pitch at the Perth Stadium

Opportunity, not a challenge

Anil Kumble and Co’s triumph in the same city (different venue) in 2008 is still one of the biggest overseas wins for India because it came against a team on an unbeaten 16-match winning streak. It felt scarcely believable. Now, 10 years later, should Kohli and Co repeat that feat, you’d applaud them, yes but it won’t be nearly as surprising.

There are multiple reasons for that, of course, but perhaps the most important factor for this confidence Kohli exuded in Perth is the win in Johannesburg earlier this year. Kohli reiterated that Wanderers pitch was the toughest track he has faced in his career and he has faced a fair few down the years.

But when faced up against that pitch which bordered (and often overshot) on dangerous, his side was determined to fight it out. When the South African camp was looking for ways to stall proceedings, the Indian camp fought for the match to continue. When Dean Elgar thought the match should have been called off, Virat Kohli and Co said they were the visitors, they didn’t ask for such a pitch but they were ready to soldier on.

And if you recall the first day of that match, India did something unprecedented. Not a single spinner was named in the playing XI. Instead, Kohli picked five quick bowlers. Five men who can clock upwards of 135 kph regularly.

Because he saw it as an opportunity to take 20 wickets in quick time, if only his batting lineup gave them enough to fight with. Kohli, Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara did just that and India pulled off a famous win.

That is the template that Kohli wants his team to follow in Perth as a green pitch awaits. It might not be quite as dangerous as the Wanderers wicket, given the grass on the surface should keep it together and help prevent the uneven bounce that made life hell for both teams earlier this year in Jo’burg. But to hear Johannesburg and Perth mentioned almost the same number of times in the press conference on Monday made one thing certain: this team is ready to take this challenge head on.

That’s because, in his words, Kohli is a lucky captain to be leading a bowling attack that has delivered consistently. He might not have the overall batting talent that at his disposal his previous captains had, but Kohli has the bowling weapons that should make the Australian batsmen nervous.

In Perth.

Indeed, the times they are a’changin.