Of pitches and more
I would not agree to people who say the first Test match in Chennai was a boring draw. It was a draw alright, but it was by no means boring. I think privileged are those of us who have had the opportunity to witness the epic knock. Besides, you had Rahul Dravid - the best number three batsman India has ever produced. He made sure he joined the elite league by scoring ten thousand runs in Test cricket.
However, in the middle of it all was the discussion surrounding those 22 yards and the men who could use that space. I get a feeling that we in India of late are not sure about the kind of wickets we actually want. Are we getting confused? Are we unable to decide whether we give big turners so that Kumble and Harbhajan make sure they spin India to a victory? Or we leave a bit of grass on the surface to make sure the Sreesanths and the Ishants of the world exploit them. That's what to me is causing the problem. I do agree that the curator and his team did not have enough time to prepare the Chennai pitch owing to unnatural heavy rainfall. But Chennai is no more an isolated case. We haven't been able to produce "true" pitches as we had in the series against Australia in 2001.
Our record against visiting teams over the last four years tells you a story. We lost a series against Australia (after losing the series, we had a big turning track in Mumbai where despite Michael Clarke figures of 6 for 9, India won the match), drew against England, drew against Pakistan and won one against them, won one of the three Tests against South Africa and won two out of the three against Sri Lanka. Our win percentage is surely not what it was in the nineties where we have gone in with three spinners at times. I think if we believe spin is our strength, we need to give turning tracks or at least tracks that start cracking from day three. I don't see a reason why we shouldn't do that. Over the years I have heard arguments that somehow give me an idea that while it's always "acceptable" to look up to a pitch that seams prodigiously; a big turning track, on the other hand is looked down upon. Have never understood that perception. I think a home team should play to its strength. You don't expect favors at the Wanderers or Perth. It's another matter that the strategy backfired on the hosts against India at both these mentioned venues.
The whole idea of us winning tests away from home shouldn't let us take away our sights on the dominance that we used to have in India. While it's important to produce bowlers who can get you wickets on seaming conditions, it's equally important to exploit your opponents' weaknesses at home. Or we decide, Indian pace bowling has come of age and give a seamer friendly track. At least for the moment, we wouldn't do that because we are still apprehensive about what Dale Steyn and company can do on that track. One cannot come at the expense of another. In our quest towards finding express pace bowlers, we havent been careful in nurturing spinners. What's life going to be after Anil Kumble? Not an easy question to answer. The choice is ours.
More about Radhakrishnan Sreenivasan
S Radhakrishnan, better known as RK, is a sports freak. After dabbling in the world of Physics at the Madras Christian College, he did his Masters in Business Administration from Mumbai. Working in a corporate world didn’t suit him and he decided to enter the world of journalism. During his stint with ESPN Star Sports, RK covered the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003, before moving on to join NEO Sports as their prime anchor. He is now the face of NEO Prime and NEO Sports.
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