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Made-to-order pitches won’t help

Makarand Waingankar
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The Delhi pitch surprised not only the Australians but the cricket fraternity in India as well. Some are furious about it while others are supportive. One set of people thought that since India had already won the series, there was no need to prepare a rank bad turner. Others felt that an opportunity to throttle Australia must never be wasted.

You can win as much as you want at home by taking home advantage. It is only by winning abroad can India be No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings.

There were mysterious strategies against England. Not playing a spinner in the warm-up matches was one of them. Then the plan was to prepare a turner and play with three spinners. At Ahmedabad the plan clicked but England regrouped and counter attacked to win the series comfortably.

After losing to England, the curators were apparently instructed to prepare pitches that would aid Indian spinners right from the first over. This wasn’t done against England as it had Swann and Panesar who could have exploited the conditions.

A majority of the curators who attended the meeting with the BCCI officials were former first-class players but none had the guts to question the instructions. With such a handsome pay, who would want to lose the contract?

Following instructions

The Delhi pitch was prepared by former Delhi opener Venkat Sundaram, a member of the Pitches and Grounds Committee that is headed by Daljit Singh but they had to carry out the instructions. This is the same association which was banned for one year by the ICC some years ago after the match referee termed the pitch unfit to play in an ODI against Sri Lanka. The match had to be abandoned.

The pitch against Australia had an uneven bounce and one of the deliveries from Ishant Sharma hit the batsman on the helmet on the first morning. A Test match pitch must produce some brilliant batting stuff on the first two days as with wear and tear it will gradually turn from day three which will make the game interesting. Did we get to watch quality batting? The great Tendulkar too struggled.

The preparation of turners is ironical, considering the Technical Committee with a legend in the chair prior to 2012-13 season took a decision to leave minimum of 4 mm grass on the pitch during the Ranji Trophy matches so that fast bowlers get interested. It was a laudable suggestion.

When this policy had been approved by the BCCI, why was it changed for the series? Wasn’t it ridiculous to watch spinners sharing the new ball in Test matches with medium pacers trying to reverse with old ball?

Let’s presume the reason for preparing turners was the 8-0 loss last season abroad on green and bouncy pitches, but England handled the situation well in India. The Aussie team was a team of apprentices touring India to learn.

International cricket is not a class room. It is a battlefield. Perhaps coach Micky Arthur’s strategy was too tough for these apprentice players to implement. Aggression always has to be backed up by temperament and technique. The Aussies having succumbed to pressure lacked technique to play spinners.

Eight months from now will be the series in South Africa. The pitches will be bouncy and the attack will be deadly. The line, length and bounce will matter to Indian batsmen and bowlers.

There is a plan in place to send inexperienced players with India ‘A’ team in June so that they will get used to the conditions before the series. The plan will click provided quality players irrespective of their age are chosen.

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