Despite the predictions and critique by the curators on the domestic circuit, the pitches in the first round of the Ranji Trophy killed the bowlers' enthusiasm. No matter how much one debates, it will continue to aid the mediocre batsmen.
In this column dated Sept. 22 2011, it was argued why there should be need to play on uncovered pitches. The honorary secretary of the BCCI, Sanjay Jagdale, who played his entire career on uncovered pitches and is always keen to bring about necessary changes in cricket operations, seems to have taken up the matter in the Technical Committee which decided to have matches of under-14 in the current season followed by other junior age groups on uncovered pitches from next season.
The committee is keen to see the experiment but it's not really an experiment as all the matches apart from those of BCCI are played on uncovered pitches. But there is a need to play senior matches on uncovered pitches as early as possible. A few years back Duleep Trophy was played on uncovered pitches and the players observed there was an element of surprise for both batsmen and bowlers.
The first round of Ranji Trophy clearly indicates a pattern of play that will not help selectors categorise players for international exposure. Except two outright victories by Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh all other teams piled up big scores.
The curator of Eden Gardens has a patent comment to offer that the pitch affords good bounce and it's a sporting pitch. 1055 runs were scored and only 16 wickets fell in the match between Bengal and Gujarat!
In the 12 matches of the first round 11,573 runs were scored and 264 wickets fell. This means a fairly high rate of 43.84 runs per wicket. It definitely is a concern because bowlers have gone for a lot of runs. The bowlers have been complaining that once the pitch is rolled after covers are lifted in the morning there is hardly any moisture for them to get help.
Role not clear
What role the pitch and grounds committee plays in the Ranji Trophy is not clear. Though the members of the committee are visible even when one-dayers are played, they are absent when local maalis prepare pitches for the Ranji Trophy. This gives enough scope for the host association to prepare a pitch that suits their strengths. It even encourages a bit of hanky-panky as witnessed four decades ago.
In the 1970 Durban Test between South Africa and Australia, the SA captain Dr. Ali Bacher invited Bill Lawry for the toss long before the start of play. The pitch was a green top. Bacher won the toss and opted to bat. Lawry didn't mind it because he felt it was good for fast bowler Graham McKenzie.
When Lawry returned to the pavilion there was commotion as he saw much to his horror the ground staff mowing the grass. When Lawry questioned Bacher, the wily doctor showed him the small print in the laws that the pitch could be mown up to 30 minutes before the start of the play.
With a brilliant double century by Graham Pollock and a century by Barry Richards South Africa scored 622 for nine and won the match.
Things have changed since then. Better laws are in place. The Technical Committee may have to perhaps rewrite the laws for uncovered pitches. The sooner matches are played on uncovered pitches, the better will be the chances of producing quality international players.