India vs Australia 2017: It's time to stop covering up performances with the 'bad-pitch' blanket
If sledging the opposition on the cricket pitch was made famous by the Australian cricket team, slandering off the pitch is an art that the Australian media now seems to have mastered. The Border-Gavaskar trophy is barely past its halfway stage and the “reputation and integrity of India cricket is on the brink of complete embarrassment”, as per a reputable Australian media house.
After defending Steve Smith’s DRS-dressing room controversy even after the Australian captain had accepted his mistake and apologised, the Australian media has now found a new target – the Indian pitches. According to a piece published in the Daily Telegraph, the Ranchi pitch is ‘devilish’ and designed to be devoid of all bounce.
Media accounts that strike a balance while displaying accuracy evoke respect. Unfortunately, these ideals seem to have been placed on the backburner by this particular media house. The headlines of the pieces published by them include – “Indian pitch doctors take the craft to a new low in Ranchi” and “‘King’ Kohli’s crown slips further”.
The Australian media is clearly prepared to do anything and everything to remove attention from the imperative issue of Australia having failed to close out the Bengaluru Test. The team came to subcontinent ready to play spin but is now finding the pitches too ‘bad’ to play on.
How does one define a ‘bad’ pitch anyway? Why is a seamer friendly pitch considered a good pitch, while a track that assists spinners is doctored to the worst degree? Are spinners not an intrinsic component of the game today? Would the same noise be made if Shane Warne was a part of the Australian team today?
The article states that “the pitch is designed to blunt Australia’s pace dynamites Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood and also limit the impact of Nathan Lyon. World No. 1 Ravindra Jadeja is a potential assassin on this pitch.”
Let’s get one thing straight – the sportsman who is preceded by the words ‘World No. 1’ is a potential assassin anywhere and everywhere. Moreover, if Jadeja and Ashwin are touted to do well on a particular surface, why wouldn’t Lyon or Australia’s other frontline spinners not do the same?
The answer is simple, and it has nothing to do with the kind of track that the bowlers bowl on. It has everything to do with the kind of balls that the bowlers bowl!
Moreover, why are performances away from home rated at the highest pedestal? What sets apart Rahul Dravid’s 233 in Adelaide from his 180 in Kolkata? Why does Steve Smith rate his Pune hundred higher than the double century he scored back home? How does a 24.61 away average and a 26.39 home average make a strong case for Shane Warne as one of the greatest bowlers ever?
The answer, again, is simple – away performances come in alien conditions. The player is out of his comfort zone, and is ready to battle through the storm to create a substantial impact on the match, and on his career. The home team will use all the weapons in its arsenal to create a situation that is tailor-made for its players. The visiting team therefore, needs to pick the eleven players that are most likely to sustain and shine in such a situation.
How and when did this simple philosophy become a question of integrity and injustice? When the Indian team toured Australia with veterans like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the 2011-12 Test series, they were humbled with a 4-0 whitewash.
The pitch prepared for the Galle Test match was a nightmare for the Indian batsmen. No faults were found with that pitch, and the Indian team, along with the Indian media, never complained.
No one raised an eyebrow when New Zealand was bowled out for 68 at Lords in 2013 and Australia’s collapse for 60 at Trent Bridge last year was not blamed on the pitch. If every pitch is tailor-made to be the same, will the runs have any merit anymore?
The pitch in Galle was criticised tremendously before the Test match between Sri Lanka and Australia last year. The game ended with Sri Lanka winning by a whopping margin of 229 runs. When one team manages to cross 250 in both the innings and another struggles to get past 180 on the same pitch, does it speak about the quality of the pitch or the skills of the batsmen playing on that pitch?
If international cricketers cannot adjust to the conditions they’re thrown into, are they truly living by that ‘international’ prefix?
WACA is known for its rigorous bounce and pace; the Headingley pitch is famous for its swing and seam.
Why can’t Indian pitches be characterised by their spin? Is it that unnatural to expect stark turners on Asian tracks?
Hard fought Test matches are the essence of the game. There is nothing wrong with a match that finishes in three days and not every match needs to go the 5-day distance. Cricket is not measured in days, but in runs and overs. Test matches are not about five days but about the tussle between the team with the wooden willow and the team with the red cherry.
Time, just like the weather, is a secondary factor. Test cricket was not invented so that players could play for multiple days. But multiple days were incorporated in Test cricket so that the players could play without the restriction of time on their shoulders.
Tennis, along with cricket, is a game where the surface keeps changing with every next tournament that the player plays. Lleyton Hewitt did not complain that the pace of the hard court in the US Open was much quicker than at the Australian Open back home.
Why can’t his countrymen follow the same principle when it comes to cricket?