When the World No. 1 Test team South Africa were wobbling against an unplayable Indian spin attack in the recently concluded 3rd Test at Nagpur, cricketers from across the globe expressed their opinions (read concerns) as to how a rank turner was ruining the beauty of Test cricket.
Though the Nagpur Test finished inside three days, I wonder how it had anything to do with a 'poor' pitch as stated by the ICC. When there are demons in a pitch, it affects performances of both the teams. But it hard to fathom, how South Africa were bowled out for 79 runs in the first innings, on a pitch where India piled 219 runs. What we should be criticising and discussing is the reason why South Africa's veteran trio of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis have failed terribly in whites on this tour.
It is praiseworthy to see none of the South African players or officials blame the pitch for their debacle, but bafflingly, cricketers from across the world had plenty to say against Indian tracks.
Whenever India tour Australia or England, are they given pitches which assist spinners? Never! And none of us complain since we want the Indian batsmen to acclimatise to all conditions, play seamers as well as they play spin. It's disheartening to see Indian batsmen on their toes in an overseas series from a fan's perspective, but when did we complain about their pitches? Rather, as the fraternity does, we too blame the technical flaws of Indian batsmen for the team's dismal show. We blame Indian speedsters for their lack of pace and inability to persist with an accurate line. But unfortunately, the idea of criticising pitches is something which never struck our minds, until now.
Having said that, Indian batsmen have done considerably well in overseas conditions of late. While Virat Kohli has been a revelation, the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay have all hit several magnificent knocks under alien conditions. We might not have won overseas series in the last few years, but slowly and steadily, the batsmen have cranked their performances up by several notches against world class seamers.
Coming to the debate of Tests finishing inside three days in the ongoing India-South Africa series, the statisticians need to dig out details about all those Tests where English, Australian, Protean pacers have skittled out oppositions twice inside three days leading their sides to several emphatic wins.
The Adelaide Test, the historic one between Australia and New Zealand, also ended within three days. Did we make any fuss about it? No. Because it was being played at Adelaide and was a landmark Test?
Considering fans' dwindling interests in the traditional format, at one point, we argue that nobody has the time to watch a five-day Test. And then, when Indian spinners bundle out an opponent twice inside three days, instead of lauding their herculean efforts, it's sad to see the fraternity blame result-oriented pitches.
When Indian batsmen struggled against James Anderson in their last tour to England, the debate wasn't whether the pitch was seamer-friendly (it always is), the debate was whether Anderson is a better pacer than Dale Steyn.
Likewise, in the ongoing series, instead of creating an unnecessary furore around Indian pitches, along with other spinners, the critics need to praise the incredible resurgence of Ravichandran Ashwin, who has arguably become the world's best spinner at the moment. He has kept the Proteas on the backfoot right throughout the series, and Kotla Test should be no different.