Dhoni has a strange wish of finishing all Test matches in three days. His statements on the nature of pitches to be prepared certainly seem to suggest so. He wants all the staging associations to prepare turning tracks. His desire of playing to home advantage can be dangerous.
At a time when attendance for Test matches is dwindling in the sub-continent, playing to win matches by preparing turners might boomerang. When such pitches are prepared, the toss becomes very vital because the curator is asked to do what he can’t predict.
The process of preparing pitches for a five-day Test match is known to experienced curators. The preparation of turners however, is a hit-or-miss task.
Pitch surfaces in India have certain characteristics. No two surfaces are the same. There are some pitches which cannot be altered.
To leave 4mm grass for the ball to move is the most obvious option, but with England having a good pace attack, we cannot take the risk. Spin is our strength and everyone agrees. But does this mean that we use methods which our batsmen will find difficult to tackle.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli stated before the series that we should prepare turners because England made green tops last year. They seem to forget the poor technique of our batsmen in the series. With such a technique, they will struggle even on turners like the Mumbai Test in 2004 when non-regular bowler Michael Clarke took six wickets for 12. All the superstars had played that Test.
Dhoni does seem to love the Ashwin-Ojha combination, but they just can’t be compared to Bedi and Prasanna who didn’t need a turner to fox world class batsmen.
Pressure of the follow-on
At Motera, our spinners weren’t able to trouble the England batsmen on the fourth day mainly because they weren’t used to bowling on two consecutive days. A follow-on puts pressure on the bowlers.
True, it is their performance in the first innings that gave confidence to the captain, but Dhoni has realised his folly and unless he plays with three spinners, he will not take the risk of enforcing the follow-on again.
Have we overlooked the aspect of Indian batting? Is Indian batting capable of handling Swann and Panesar on a turner? Swann enjoys using his varieties when from the other end a bowler is bowling tight.
When Panesar bowls tight, Swann uses his attacking varieties. If England wins the toss and bats for a day, Swann and Panesar could be dangerous on a dry pitch.
Everyone knows Dhoni has strong likes and dislikes, but in a five-day Test it’s your tactics based on sound principles of strategy management that will help you get closer to victory. England will re-work on the team combination for the Mumbai Test.
The pitch at the Wankhede stadium has red soil and as experienced curator Sudhir Naik always said, tinkering with a red soil pitch will get us in trouble. Incidentally, Sudhir Naik didn’t prepare the pitch in 2004 against Australia.
People purchase tickets expecting to watch brilliant batting for three days and then the fun of watching batsmen survive against the spinners for the next two days.
The T20 influence
It does seem T20 is influencing us too much. All we want is quick action. But the beauty of Test cricket lies in the aesthetics of it and always will.
Dhoni should not interfere with Test cricket which is real cricket.