Even before England landed in early October for the five-match Test series, the buildup centred on the kind of pitches India would put on offer. It was nothing out of the ordinary as that is the case when teams arrive in the subcontinent. But this time the attention refuses to go away, more so, after the results in the opening two Tests.
England nearly pulled off an upset in Rajkot on what was termed a ‘fair’ pitch, but were found wanting on the sluggish surface in Visakhapatnam. This did not go down well with the visiting media contingent, and with the Faf du Plessis ball-tampering controversy making the headlines, images of India skipper Virat Kohli rubbing ‘sweetened’ saliva to polish the ball gave them the ammo to hit back at the hosts.
But if ‘fair play’ was the peg, their behaviour at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) ground on Thursday belied that. Even as their team practiced at the nets, English reporters and television crew strolled on to the pitch and started checking out the surface for the third Test, which gets underway on Saturday, much to the annoyance of the ground staff.
The move was in contrast to the Indian reporters, who kept their distance, aware that PCA chief curator Daljit Singh prohibits anyone from intruding into the area while groundsmen are at work.
Since Daljit was not present at the ground, his deputy Rakesh Kumar failed to prevent the English media contingent from invading the pitch. He kept insisting that they move away from the cordoned area, but his requests fell on deaf ears.
Some of the reporters were seen tapping the pitch to check its hardness and soil content. There were murmurs that the PCA wicket looking drier than normal, which could favour the Indian spinners.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who writes a column for a paper, spent time near the pitch and prepared a video on its nature.
Some TV commentators like Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton even played football in a corner of the ground, much to Rakesh’s chagrin. He asked them to stop their game, and while this could be termed as a security lapse on the part of the PCA, the situation was brought under control once Daljit arrived and took charge.