The wicket nature of the 22-yard strip at the Holkar Stadium where deliveries started turning square from the word go has reignited the debate of the India dishing out under-prepared surfaces for the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy games against Australia.The ICC match referee Chris Broad is almost certain to take cognisance of the diabolical nature of the track and it won’t be surprising that after Nagpur and Delhi which were rated “average”, the track for the ongoing Test match could well get a “Below Average” rating. India were all out for 109 in just over a session while Australia managed to crawl to 156 for 4 as 14 wickets fell by the end of the day’s play.
All teams like to have conditions of their choice at home but what should be the extent of that home advantage? Another Test is set to be completed inside three days. Is that good for the game? And did the curators get enough time prepare the surface with announcement of the game being shifted from Dharamsala coming only two weeks ago? Could have the BCCI have managed the last minute change of venue better? These are some of the lingering questions that deserve an answer.
All the Test matches of the series so far have attracted healthy crowds but will the fans continue to flock the venues if the standard of pitches is not addressed? Matthew Kuhnemann had India skipper Rohit Sharma stumped in the sixth over of the game with the ball turning a proverbial mile.
The degree of turn was a massive 8.3. Nathan Lyon got one to dart back in from way outside the off stump and that too with ball keeping low. Ut left Cheteshwar Pujara surprised. That turned 6.8 degrees.
Both Rohit and Pujara could have used discretion with their shot selection but to have ball turning at right angles in the first hour left a lot to be desired. Should the ball have turned that much so early in the game? Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar feels the trend of three-day finishes in India makes a mockery of Test cricket.
“The pitch makes all the difference if you want to watch good cricket. You must have wickets with even bounce so that both batters and bowlers get equal opportunity. If the ball turns from day one and first session itself and that too with uneven bounce, it makes a mockery of Test cricket,” Vengsarkar told PTI.
“It is important to get crowds back for Test cricket. You see that in England and Australia but unfortunately it is not happening in India. People will come back to Test cricket only if it is interesting. Nobody wants to see bowlers dominating the batters from first session itself,” added one of the finest batters of spin bowling India have produced.
Australian great Matthew Hayden was critical of the Indore pitch and felt sorry for the fans of Test cricket.
“No way spinners should come to bowl in the sixth over. This is the reason I don’t like these kinds of surfaces. It shouldn’t be keeping this low and turning so much on Day 1. It doesn’t matter whether Australia wins this Test or India. These kinds of surfaces are not good for Test cricket,” said Hayden on air.
The pitch behaved like it did may be because it was over-used and the curators did not get enough time to prepare as the announcement was made in the 11th hour after Himachal Pradesh CA failed to get its ground ready. The ground was hosting domestic cricket since September and only last month an ODI was played.
“That could be also the reason the bounce is uneven. They did not get much time to water and hold the wicket,” opined Vengsarkar. A pitch expert who did not wish to be named said it takes at least a month to prepare a good wicket for a Test match. The square houses pitches both with red and black soil but the game is played on the latter.
It is believed that black soil helps in offering more turn and also retains moisture which helps in deviation in the air also.
“It takes at least month to prepare a Test wicket. Pitches too need rest. In this case, there was not even two weeks of time in between Ranji Trophy semi-final and this game. Before that there was an ODI played against New Zealand last month. That seems to have contributed to how the pitch is behaving,” said an expert in know of things.
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