From the Viewsroom

Pitching for a good pitch

B Baskar | Updated on March 02, 2021

And raising some uncomfortable questions on ‘home advantage’

The Ahmedabad Test was the shortest match since 1935, where 29 of the 30 wickets that fell went to spinners. What’s more, of these 29 wickets, 21 batsmen fell to straight deliveries. This predictably led to a huge furore over the quality of the wicket.

Leading the critics was former England captain Michael Vaughan, who even urged the ICC to act against the BCCI for preparing such a pitch.

The ‘defenders’ of the pitch found nothing wrong with it but everything wrong with the England batsmen and their attitude. Virat Kohli and R Ashwin (who’s going through a purple patch both with the ball and bat) defended the pitch with the latter even asking, a touch self-righteously, “what’s a good surface, who defines it?” He even went on to debunk the concept of a ‘good pitch’ which, according to conventional wisdom, is supposed to initially favour seam bowlers, then the batsmen and then spinners on the last two days.

Some have defended the Ahmedabad pitch saying that there is nothing wrong in playing to one’s home advantage. Doesn’t India have to face green, bouncy pitches, favouring fast and swing bowling while touring England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (the so-called SENA nations)?

Now, this brings us to another tricky question: Does the current Indian team, arguably the best with a wonderful balance between batting, fast and spin bowling, need to play to its ‘home advantage’? Is this team not good enough to beat any team on any surface as it amply proved in the recently concluded Australian tour? Why does this Indian team need to leverage ‘home advantage’, like the teams did back in the 1990s? Also, can’t ‘home advantage’ be fast and seaming tracks where our fast bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and others — can showcase their talent and ability?

The last time England toured India in 2016-17, they were beaten comprehensively 4-0 on tracks that were not ’square turners’ with Ashwin, with 28 scalps, being the highest wicket-taker from both sides. There is little doubt that the Ahmedabad Test has cast a shadow on Test cricket, though both sides for now are putting on a brave face.

Published on March 02, 2021

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