Cricket needs pitches not National Highways!
Just after India whacked New Zealand by a record margin in third and final Test at Nagpur, questions were raised about how big the victory by the numero uno team against a number eight Test nation should be rated? Some critics even termed India’s 1-0 victory as more of a ‘loss’, but then again, you can’t blame some critics for their over-the-top cricketing observations!
Sometimes statistics hide more than what they reveal, and recent two Test series on Indian soil present a clear picture of how the final result cannot be the only parameter to judge the competitive nature of recently concluded five-day games.
The Test series against Australia, where India won two out of two Test and clean-swept Kangaroos, was much more closely contested than the recent one over Kiwis where India won one out of three Tests.
India has been in tremendous form of late in Tests and the wins like the ones in Mohali where Ishant Shrama and VVS Laxman weaved an 81-run partnership to snatch victory from Australian jaws and draws like that in Ahmedabad where Harbhajan Singh slammed his maiden century on last day to save India from embarrassment has brought back the flavour to Test cricket which many thought was in its senile stages.
But at a time when most of the matches of-late have not only become result oriented, but also more competitive than other shorter versions, perhaps what cricket today cannot afford to have is flat lifeless tracks which can be a good advert for high-run scoring bang-bang version but not for the classic version of the game.
A thought should also be spared for the bowlers’ community who are being slaughtered around the park by Sehwags, Gayles and De Villers of the world and perhaps with conditions like these - the day is not far when an aspiring bowling talent will succumb to the advantage of being a batsman than a bowler.
Further damage that these type of pitches have done to the game is to tilt the advantage to an already batting heavy side and thus has become evidently unfair to bowlers who are often accused of lacking the ability to pick 20 opposition wickets.
One look at the results at recent Test venues in the subcontinent- Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Galle, Colombo- expose that either Tests need to be stretched for seven or ten days to produce a result or the winner should be decided by toss after five days!
Many like me have grown up knowing that pitches in subcontinent are conducive for spin bowling, but the barren tracks where even the spinners don’t get any assistance on fifth day is not only a topic of heated discussion but also a cause of huge concern.
Not only is the condition of these pitches a bad advertisement for Test cricket, but also the scarcity of new spin talent across the subcontinent is to be taken seriously.
If one leaves the generation of Kumble and Harbhajan from India, Muttiah Muralitharan from Sri Lanka and Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed from Pakistan- young talents like Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra, Suraj Randiv, Saeed Ajmal or Danish Kaneria are hardly exciting.
No one in the past could have even imagined this scarcity of spin talent that the two best spinners of the world will hail from countries like England and New Zealand!
Probably it’s time for Asian cricket administrators to sit and think that it’s not only high scoring games and big hundreds that amuse cricket lovers but also the excitement of a low-scoring game that brings spectators to watch the game of cricket.
When a country tours England, they get wickets which are conducive for swing bowling; when you travel Australia, you get wickets which are favourable for spongy bounce; then why can’t sub-continent nations make turning tracks or at least pitches that offer some assistance to bowlers and play to their advantage?
When a player like Harbhajan Singh does not like to talk about his second consecutive hundred on Hyderabad pitch and rather say that the curator should be awarded the contract to make National Highways for making a no-brainer flat track, the pain of a bowler is evident.
The question is, who will address this problem?
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