Ajit Agarkar has heavily criticized the pitches used in Chennai for IPL 2021. The former India pacer branded the wicket for Friday's game between Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings as 'ordinary' because it didn't support the brisk scoring of runs.
Mumbai Indians' famed batting line-up could put up just 131 runs against KL Rahul's team. In response, the Punjab Kings batted aggressively and shot down the total with nine wickets to spare.
Although Chennai has also seen over 200 runs scored in an innings this season, the wickets have usually been sluggish and spin-friendly, making it difficult for most batsmen to hit through the line.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Ajit Agarkar admitted that it is tough to maintain high-scoring pitches amid Chennai's heat and IPL 2021's tightly packed schedule.
"You've got to sympathize with the groundsmen [because] the games are coming thick and fast but we have consistently seen these sort of pitches which have progressively gotten worse. This is in a way understandable because of the heat in Chennai and the very little time to prepare the wickets. But today was a tough pitch. I mean, it was a pretty ordinary wicket," said Ajit Agarkar.
The 43-year-old added that the pitches used in IPL 2021 should at least see scores of 150-160 being made by the teams batting first.
"Anything other than 130 that they [Punjab Kings] had to get, they would have had to take some chances a little bit earlier and that's where teams chasing can get into trouble. I have no problem in seeing difficult pitches, you know being a former bowler, but you want to see pitches where you can get 150-160 with teams being able to chase that. If you get 160 on this pitch, I don't think a team will be able to chase that no matter what," added Agarkar.
Ajit Agarkar's observations come in the wake of several former and current cricketers labeling the pitches used in IPL 2021 as 'trash' and 'shocking'. Meanwhile, others have defended the surface, saying it encourages an even contest between the bat and ball.
Dale Steyn's views on the Chennai pitch
South African quick Dale Steyn also provided his views on the Chennai pitch debate.
Speaking alongside Ajit Agarkar, Steyn suggested that besides the pitch, the Mumbai Indians' batting in the powerplay overs cost them the game against Punjab.
"I think they [Mumbai Indians] are falling 15-20 runs short every time. The powerplay was a big one for me today. They only scored 20-odd runs in the powerplay. Had they scored 40, they would have made around 160, potentially even gotten close to that 170 somewhere," said Dale Steyn.
Dale Steyn further suggested that even slow pitches could provide for some 'refereshing' entertainment. He cited the example of PBKS batsman Chris Gayle's uncharacteristically sluggish knock of 43* (35) to explain his point.
"These wickets are going to become difficult to bat on, these games that have been happening back-to-back at one venue, guys are running around all the time. They are very tough to maintain. But they do provide for quite exciting cricket at the same time. Sometimes we don't need to watch those 200 vs 200 games. It's quite refreshing to watch Chris Gayle score at only a 100 strike rate and get his team over the line. It was quite interesting to see someone like him adjust his game. Although the pitch wasn't quite up to the standard that we like to see, it was still entertaining to watch these guys adapt," signed off Steyn.
Defending champions MI will next take on the Rajasthan Royals in Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Thursday.