PERTH, Dec 18 (Reuters) - India captain Virat Kohli effectively admitted to misreading the pitch at Perth’s new stadium after not picking a frontline spinner in a test match in which off-spinner Nathan Lyon emerged as Australia’s trump card.
On the green-tinged pitch the touring side opted for an all-pace attack, drafting in quick Umesh Yadav for injured off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. All-rounder Hanuma Vihari, who replaced Rohit Sharma, was India’s only slow bowling option.
Kohli said India would have considered playing Ashwin if the spin ace had been fit but was keener to laud Lyon’s brilliance for his match-winning figures of 8-106 rather than credit the assistance from the surface.
“It was the pace on the ball Lyon bowled with that got him the wickets,” Kohli said after the hosts squared the four-test series at 1-1 with a 146-run victory.
“We didn’t think that we definitely wanted to consider a spinning option on this pitch, especially having a look at the pitch on day one and how we thought it would play on the first three days.
“We thought a fast bowler is going to be more productive and more helpful for us.”
India have left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as the other slow bowling options in the squad but preferred speedster Umesh Yadav, who struggled with match figures of 2-139.
Not picking Jadeja, who averages over 32 with the bat from 39 tests, also robbed India of balance and lengthened their tail with their last four batsmen totalling just 11 runs between them for the match.
“We all know Ashwin or Jadeja have more ability with the bat,” Kohli said.
“It’s a very tricky decision to make what kind of a bowling option you want to go with or you want to think whether that guy can contribute with the bat as well or not.
“Eventually you come to one decision and we backed that decision and we went ahead with it. Whether it comes off or not is a different thing.
“But we were totally convinced as a team that is our best combination to go with and the batsmen have to take responsibility.”
India will have to address their problems at the top of the order with the opening partnerships from Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay of three, 63, six and zero in the first two tests.
First choice opening batsman Prithvi Shaw injured his ankle while fielding during a tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Sydney last month and has been ruled out of the rest of the series.
Fellow opener Mayank Agarwal, who has yet to make his test debut, was named as Shaw’s replacement and could replace either Rahul or Vijay in Melbourne.
“You have to keep backing them and telling them they belong and they are good enough to perform,” Kohli said.
“It’s not even giving someone individual goals, it’s just telling them that this is what we require as a team from the openers and this is the role that needs to be fulfilled.
“There’s not much to say to be honest.” (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Nick Mulvenney)