Mahendra Singh Dhoni is known for being captain cool, for rock-solid assurance in tight situations and for his astute leadership that resembles that of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
But his propagating turning pitches from day one must have come as a shock to those who are fighting hard to save Test cricket.
The thrilling Test matches between Australia and South Africa followed by the pulsating Test match at the Wankhede Stadium are ideal advertisement for Test cricket that is expected to test skills, endurance and temperament.
However, Dhoni's comment about having pitches turning from the first day indicates his naiveté on the subject of pitch preparation.
He also seems to disregard the universal truth that no matter what the format of cricket being played, the basics of a player's skills are fine-tuned in the longer version.
Dhoni doesn't seem to be a follower of cricket history. In the era of uncovered pitches, Indian pitches were so dusty from day one that after bowling one over each with the new ball, the players would rub the ball on the outfield and the ball would start turning at right angles.
In the 1969 series against Australia and later in the 1972-73 series against Tony Lewis's MCC team, spinners found it difficult to control turn as even a straighter ball would turn and bounce.
Karsan Ghavri who made his debut during the India-West Indies series in 1974-75 recounts Pataudi's funny instructions in his first Test match.
“Karsan, the first three overs are your warm-up. Bang the ball so that shine will be off but in case you get a wicket, you will get three more overs and that will be your stretching” Pataudi said.
Despite preparing turning pitches Indians very rarely had an upper hand save for a few matches. The bat-pad technique of Peter May and Colin Cowdrey that made mystery bowler Ramadhin ineffective is a forgotten art though Dilip Vengsarkar employed that technique admirably well.
A few years ago when the Wankhede pitch was intentionally under-prepared, change bowler Michael Clarke was made to look like Bishan Singh Bedi, our batting stalwarts fared that badly.
Even Marlon Samuels made things difficult for Indian batsmen in the Mumbai Test match recently. Are our present day batsmen equipped to play on turning pitches? Certainly not!
A Test match pitch is expected to have good carry and help fast bowlers on the first day and later aid batsmen till the wear and tear of the pitch start helping spinners.
Dhoni being a wicketkeeper ought to have accepted the fact that his fast bowlers were bowling too short on the first day and were not making any effort to move the ball which Zaheer Khan would have done.
After capturing nine wickets and scoring a century, if Ashwin finds fault with the nature of the Wankhede pitch, something is basically wrong with his thought process which will hopefully change with experience.
As Bishan Bedi rightly said, “It's too early for Ashwin to comment on the nature of the pitch. To be a top class bowler you need to bowl well on good pitches too.”
There is definitely scope for improvement in the preparation of pitches for Test matches in India. But asking for pitches to turn from day one is not the solution, as the paying public will be deprived of quality batting and bowling.
Test match is the real thing. Other formats are fun.