The Indian Test Cricket team has NEVER been in this position. 1-0 up after the first Test of series in Australia? It’s real. In 2003-04, they took the lead in Adelaide, too, but that wasn’t the first Test of the series. Virat Kohli and his men will know that they were run close – 32 runs isn’t much – at Adelaide, despite the absence of key batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner. He knows that his bowlers have a ‘tail-order’ problem, and that his openers haven’t clicked all year.

Now, as we head into the second Test at a notoriously scary venue for visiting teams – Perth and its pace – India has its work cut out for itself, especially because of the lack of rest for its fast bowlers. While the new Perth Stadium promises to emulate conditions of its famous WACA Ground across the river, let’s take a look at the possible changes and strategies going into the second Test match of the Border-Gavaskar series:

TEAM NEWS

As I speak, news comes in that India’s destructor-in-chief Ravichandran Ashwin has pulled out of the second Test due to an abdominal injury, while Rohit Sharma is unavailable due to a strained back. This, in addition to first-choice opener Prithvi Shaw’s ankle injury, puts a dent in India’s plans for the Perth Test match.

RESULT

They might not have wanted to change a winning combination, but Kohli’s record proves that he is unafraid to do so. So Rohit getting injured might prove to be a blessing for not just himself (as opposed to the humiliation of being dropped from the Test team again, in favour of Hanuma Vihari) but also for the team – that, at times, required a fifth all-round bowler in Adelaide when the strike bowlers tired. Vihari’s off-spin will prove handy, and his all-rounder status means that he will technically fill in for the injured Hardik Pandya, which gives India the option of playing four pacers now. Ravindra Jadeja is slated to directly replace R. Ashwin – especially for his fitness and aggressive batting – but that might not happen, given the Perth pitch and the temptation to pick Bhuvneshwar Kumar over a spinner.

PREDICTION:

Thanks to Shaw’s injury, underperforming openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul get another chance at the top. Rahul looked good for his 43 in the second innings of the first Test, but he is struggling for confidence. The middle order might read: Rahane, Vihari, Pant, Bhuvi. Jadeja will give India the option to hold up one end, and we all know that Kohli’s new conservative approach so that they can grind out results against a weak Australian team might mean that Jadeja gets the nod on a quick surface.

Expected XI:

Vijay, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Vihari, Pant, Jadeja, Shami, Ishant, Bumrah

HISTORY AT PERTH

India has won 1 out of their 4 Tests played at Perth against Australia. This was in 2008, under Anil Kumble’s captaincy, after the Sydney debacle where he famously declared that “only one team played in the spirit of the game”. India has lost the other 3 (in 1977, 1992, 2012) Perth Tests, while no Test was held here in their 2014-15 Tour of Australia.

AUSTRALIA AT PERTH

The WACA and Australia’s pace bowlers have had a long love affair. Australia has drawn only 8 of its 44 Tests at Perth – winning 25 of them and losing 11. It’s often all or nothing for the Aussies here. In their last 5 matches in Perth, though, Australia has only managed to terrorize old foes England at the WACA – they have been beaten twice by South Africa, and have drawn with New Zealand ( in a run feast) in the other three. This diminishing aura might contribute to their struggles this time around – especially given the fact that India arguably has the most consistent pace bowling line-up in Test Cricket at the moment.

PREDICTED OUTCOME

Kohli to score a century in one of the two innings. Pant to explode. Starc to terrorize India’s lower order. Australia to lose on the back of their weak top-order batting.