Closer to Singapore and Jakarta than the nearest Australian city, Adelaide, Perth is more than three hours behind and 3000km from Sydney, where the team played the Netherlands on Thursday.
A near five-hour flight and airport transit times meant the team now has less than 48 hours before their crucial game against South Africa, India’s last remaining big challenge in this group on what is expected to be a pacy Perth Stadium pitch.
Luckily, the team management factored this in where they arrived in Australia early, stayed for nearly a week in Perth and played some practice games.
“The first phase of preparation when we touched down here in Perth was the most crucial one,” pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said. “The strategy changes with each team as batters change, so we discussed and trained on execution of plans. We knew if you lose a match first up in a tournament, that too against a tough team like Pakistan, it would have been difficult to make a comeback.”
India may have put up camp in Perth with the Pakistan game in mind but it is against South Africa that all the planning may come to fruition. The South African players too earlier took the early-morning flight from Sydney, where they demolished Bangladesh, and will face the same challenges in acclimatizing fast to vastly different conditions.
With the focus shifting once again to India’s pace attack in Perth, Bhuvneshwar, for one, is happy with what he has derived from the conditions in Australia so far.
“I never expected that my deliveries would swing so much because people said it doesn’t swing much in Australia,” he said. “Me and Arshdeep (Singh) complemented each other so you can say I’m happy. Arshdeep is always asking about what sort of tracks will be on offer and what sort of shots batsmen can play on these tracks. Considering this is his first T20 World Cup, he is doing really well.”
With Zimbabwe upsetting Pakistan here, Perth is where it’s all happening in the World Cup. Even though India have said they will not chop and change much, lef-tarm spinner Axar Patel is not too sure about India’s XI against the left-hander-heavy South African batting lineup.
The main issue, of course, is negotiating South Africa’s pace attack.
“We need to play normal fearless cricket and not think that we are facing Rabada and Nortje on a bouncy track,” said Axar. “We also have Bhuvi, Shami and Arshdeep. The main difference between the Indian and Australian wickets is bounce, so we will plan accordingly.”
The old WACA and the new Perth Stadium are on either side of the Swan River, and there’ll be some choppy waters for India to negotiate come Sunday.