Sunday, February 26, 2017

1st test: Pune failed to pitch it right for India-Australia series-opener

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon appeals for a LBW decision against India’s Lokesh Rahul in Pune on Saturday. Pic/AFP

Pune: Pitch-making is no rocket science, and at times, it doesn’t turn out quite the way curator predicts it to be. But it’s a bit hard to believe that the dry turner produced for the first Test between India and Australia at the MCA Stadium here was just a recipe gone terribly wrong.

A pitch might crumble when the curator doesn’t expect it to crumble, or vice a versa. But a surface as dry as this one, even with the afternoon temperatures hitting 35 degrees, can only be dished out when less water has been put, or watering has been completely stopped a couple of days before the game.

That brings us to the question: Whose choice was it to prepare such a dry turner? Going by the official version, the local curator is responsible for the pitch, and he has total freedom in preparation. “I have got no fillers, and I don’t listen to anyone,” Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar had said two days before the game.

Skipper Virat Kohli was asked after the match if anyone from Indian team management had asked for such a wicket, and his answer was, “I don’t know, I didn’t speak to anyone.”

Going by those statements, one would feel it was the local curator who decided to prepare a dry turner. But the ground reality suggests something else. First, the pitch here has never helped spinners, and the only three first-class games out of 16 played here have finished in three days. There was a lot of grass on the pitch on all those occasions, and pace bowlers took 90% of the wickets in each of those three games.

“Matches always go till last day here and expect nothing else this time round,” Salgaoncar had said a couple of days before the game. But, perhaps, the presence of BCCI’s West Zone curator Dheeraj Parsana (from January 17) and chief curator Daljit Singh (from January 21) to oversee the proceedings, changed things. The pitch wore quite a different look on the morning of the game as compared to when Salgaoncar spoke to the media to whom he said, “The pitch will have pace and bounce for anyone who bends his back, and will not offer much turn on the first couple of days.”

And irrespective of whoever suggested for the pitch to be a dry turner, it was a bad idea from an Indian perspective. Firstly, it suggests a defensive mindset from a home team for the first Test of a series when they try to play on a wicket so tailor-made to suit their strength.

Secondly, it takes away the advantage of having superior spin bowlers as compared to Australia.

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