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Don’t shoo away fans with slow tracks

The ongoing Test at Mohali seems to have been hit by both - a tame pitch, and a not-so-keyed up audience. The track is not even a pale shadow of what it used to be, writes Aakash Chopra.

cricket Updated: Oct 04, 2010 00:04 IST

I remember playing a Duleep Trophy match against West Zone at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. It was a classic Mohali track with pace, bounce and enough lateral movement to keep the batsmen guessing and, for once, making the bowlers believe that being a bowler wasn’t such a bad thing.

The faster men ruled the match but good batting was also rewarded, for bounce always helps to play shots. Then, there was the second Test of my debut series against New Zealand at the same venue. While the track wasn’t as livelier as it was for the Duleep Trophy tie, it had enough to keep the bowlers interested. What made the show even more exciting were the spectators who came out in huge numbers on all five days despite India trailing. A lot has changed since then - the pitch is a far cry from its original spirit, forcing competitive games into wishy-washy affairs. The spectators too seem to have got a whiff of the bland show, and hence don’t care much about turning up and supporting their country.

The ongoing Test at Mohali seems to have been hit by both - a tame pitch, and a not-so-keyed up audience. The track is not even a pale shadow of what it used to be. The much-talked about pace and bounce is a thing of the past. Now, we witness a low, slow wicket which is not ideal for a fair competition between the bat and ball. If it wasn’t for the SG Test ball, which helps spinners with its pronounced seam and assists the pacers with reverse swing, bowlers may start mulling over their availability for the venue.

The claims holding incessant rain responsible for the insipid pitch at Mohali may fall flat too. The story wasn’t any different in 2008 when India played England, a high scoring match finishing in a draw.

Ironically though, when the Ranji Trophy starts in three weeks, the pitch report might read quite differently. There’ll be an even grass covering on the track and fast bowlers will share the spoils once again. Spinners play an insignificant role for Punjab in the first-class cricket.

I’m not suggesting a green top against Australia for that would be playing into their hands (like we did at Nagpur in 2004) but a track with at least some carry and bounce won’t hurt the game. It’s rather unnerving to see the ball bounce twice to the wicketkeeper on the first day of a Test.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when sweeping attempts are being made to resurrect the format and challenge the spectators’ growing disenchantment. Earlier, any international match would bring star-crazy people into the stadium but now their hunger is satiated via the IPL. No longer do they need to survive the proceedings of a dull Test match in order to get a glimpse of their favourite stars. The IPL has given them a taste of all that they can get from a match. The hosts need to stop taking their spectators for granted.

www.cricketaakash.com