India’s thrashing of Australia in the Nagpur Test match inside three days will surely reignite the debate on the state of cricket pitches in India. The debate will have a depressingly predictable ring to it. We will have a bunch of former cricketers from England and Australia who will slam India for deliberately preparing under-prepared pitches to suit Indian spinners and a bunch of former Indian cricketers will mount a robust defence of them.
Thanks to ‘home advantage’, teams usually end up winning Test series’ played at home, which is why the odd away Test series win is savoured so much, especially by Indian fans, who for long have had to endure their team being saddled with the unfortunate tag of ‘poor travellers’ .
In a virtual press conference a few days before this series, former Australia captain and broadcaster Ian Chappell in his characteristically blunt way said only the curator should decide on what kind of pitch to prepare, not the players or team management. Now, that’s a wonderful thought but we know that rarely happens. When Chappell was asked what he thought was a good Test wicket, he said “one where a team wins on the fifth day after tea”.
By that norm the Nagpur pitch failed miserably. But was that more due to the Australian batters’ inability to cope with India’s world-class spinners? The last word on this debate has not been spoken and perhaps never will be. But a Test finishing inside three days is not the best advertisement for Test cricket. Also some of the most riveting matches between these two sides have been played on pitches that have adhered to the ‘Chappell norm’. One sincerely hopes that Australia bounces back. A one-sided series will rob the fans of the drama and excitement that they have come to expect from an India-Australia clash.