Caught in a Spin over tracks

The Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Gahunje ... under the scanner

Pune’s debut as India’s 25th Test venue has ended on a bitter note with the pitch being termed “poor” by the International Cricket Council (ICC) referee.

A cricket loving city like Pune does not deserve this. Now that the deed is done, the blame game will begin.The final response lies with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and what reasons they will give for state of the pitch.

The Maharashtra Cricket Association, however, has stated that it had followed instructions given by the BCCI pitches panel and not taken a unilateral decision. There is evidence in this regard. The BCCI panel members had visited Pune before the Test and some instructions were passed on.

How else can one explain that a pitch, reputed for being flat, turned into a minefield for batsmen? One has to look back to the past to get an answer.

Three seasons ago or so, India’s cricket brains trust decided, that if India were to dominate at home, then spinning tracks were the answer. This also coincided with the rise of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as top class spinners.

There was nothing wrong with India’s thinking. Each country prepares pitches to suit their strength. Since then, India enjoyed a dream run on rank turners.

Not many countries are adept at playing spin. So they succumbed to the turn and matches rarely entered the fifth day.

This season was no different as New Zealand, England and Bangladesh struggled to make impact. It was unfortunate that Pune’s debut Test also happened to be the first of a four-Test series against Australia and it came into sharp focus.

The Australians are very smart when it comes to preparations. They realised that their earlier teams were soundly thrashed in India and things had to change. A camp was organised in Dubai before the series so that players got used to playing spin. So the Australians were well prepared to take on India when they landed for the series.

The toss plays a vital part on such spinning tracks. Australia won the toss, then out-batted, out-bowled and outwitted India to win by a big margin.

India’s plan boomeranged for once and a rethink was the needed to salvage the series.

Reports now suggest that the pitch for second Test in Bangalore will be more sporting in nature and should last the full five days. So India’s defeat has changed the equation for pitches. If Pune were to be the venue for the second Test, then the pitch probably would  not have been tampered with so much.

Now that the deed is done, Pune will join the list of other venues which have provided unsuitable wickets for Tests. Unfortunately, the Australians won’t let India forget this in a hurry. They will rub it in whenever spinning wickets are talked about and how they upstaged India.

This is sad indeed. There was so much effort put into making this event a big success for the city. One does not know when Pune will get another chance to host a Test.

Thankfully, the Indian Premier League starts next month and the true character of Pune’s wickets will re-emerge.

The city’s pride will become a batting paradise again.

Babu Kalyanpur

Babu Kalyanpur, ( Consulting Editor) has rich experience in both sports and business journalism. Babu has led news desks in Pune and Bahrain and writes extensively on his passion, sports and business besides current affairs and matters of importance to Pune.

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