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Dead pitches snuffing life out of the game?

cricket Updated: Oct 18, 2012 01:25 IST
Kaushik Chatterji
Kaushik Chatterji
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

It was in Hyderabad during the Ranji Trophy final of 2009/10 that he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for his first-ever duck in domestic cricket. Two-and-a-half years after that feat, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has now scored his maiden first-class century on that very pitch, helping Central Zone qualify for their second successive Duleep Trophy final. With such fantastic memories associated with it, one would think that Bhuvnesh would want to pack the turf of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium and carry it around with him wherever he goes.

But that isn’t really the case. “It’s not really my favourite ground. I’m a bowler, and this was a very difficult pitch to bowl on,” said Bhuvnesh about the lifeless strip, which motivated him to keep going with the bat when his chance came. “It was a totally flat wicket with absolutely nothing in it for the bowlers. There was no turn, no bounce and no swing.”

Amid all the talk about preparing sporting wickets for domestic ties, the placid surface here was a reality check. Sure, it helped Yuvraj Singh stage a spectacular comeback to the longer version of the game, Shikhar Dhawan notch up his sixth straight 50-plus score, and Bhuvnesh and Rituraj Singh take their team past North’s total of 451 by posting a stunning century partnership for the last wicket.

But it also showed that some things never change. Never mind the upcoming, all-new Ranji Trophy — with strips like these, the second innings will continue to stay out of the picture. Teams will try and post a mammoth total upfront, while bowlers will toil on with little success. And like in the Duleep Trophy semifinal between North Zone and Central that concluded here on Wednesday, matches will continue to be decided on first-innings lead.

With no help on offer, none of the bowlers could do anything besides running up to the crease and hoping for the best. “On a pitch like this, all you can do is stick to your line, vary your pace and hope that the batsman makes a mistake,” said Amit Mishra, who was North’s workhorse, sending down 41 overs during Central’s first innings. “It had nothing. It was very slow, and very good for batting.”

Mishra, who overstepped 16 times during the match (he had an identical number of no-balls against his name during the quarterfinals against West), even blamed the quality of pitches for his frequent misdemeanours. “In both my matches since coming back from an injury lay-off, here and in Chennai last week, I’ve had to bowl on such pitches,” said Mishra. “With no response from the surface, I’ve had to put in an extra effort, which is why I’ve overstepped so many times.”

Such strong remarks from bowlers on both sides should serve as the latest rude wake-up call for the BCCI’s Ground and Pitches Committee. It might have come in a bit too late for Duleep — the final is slated in Chennai starting later this week. But with some time left before the new Ranji season begins, hope still has scope.

Brief scores
North 451 & 187/4 decl (R Dewan 80), Central 469 (B Kumar 128, A Mishra 4/162) & 39/1. Central in final on 1st innings lead.

CLT20 serves a reminder
Most of the time, Indian batsmen don’t make for a pleasing sight when batting on bouncy and fast tracks. If the BCCI needed another reminder of the need to train their batsmen to handle challenging conditions, then the ongoing CLT20 has provided it. The four IPL teams participating are finding it tough to adapt to the bouncy South African pitches and it is showing in their results.

The Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians are yet to win a match in the tournament, while the Delhi Daredevils’ only victory has come against KKR. “Most IPL teams are starting off slowly because these are very different conditions for them,” CSK’s South African player Faf Du Plessis said. “Teams which are used to these conditions — Australian and South African — are doing well.”