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India vs Australia: Ranchi pitch talk takes shine off skills

For the Indian cricket Board’s sake, Ranchi needs to produce a good pitch for the third Test that will last five days. But the first look on Tuesday wasn’t encouraging.

cricket Updated: Mar 14, 2017 20:10 IST
Somshuvra Laha
M Chinnaswamy Stadium

India’s cricket coach, Anil Kumble (centre) inspects the M Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch ahead of the second Test against Australia. ICC match rferee, Chris Broad, ruled the pitch ‘below average’ due to uneven bounce after the match ended in four days.(AFP)

The pitch for the first Test against Australia in Pune was rated as ‘poor’ by the ICC match referee. The pitch for the Bangalore Test was ruled ‘below average’. With pitches proving to be the biggest botch-up on what has been a keenly fought series till now, there is dire need for Ranchi to come up with a good surface for the third Test starting on Thursday. Strangely, there has been no assurance so far.

Given what has transpired over the last few days, local curator SB Singh was naturally the most sought after man by the media. However, not once did Singh confidently say the Ranchi pitch would last five days.

Read | India vs Australia: After Pune shame, Bangalore pitch rated ‘below average’

CURATOR DEFLECTS FOCUS

Instead, he tried to deflect attention to the ‘process’ that goes into improving the square and how a reserve pitch has also been prepared according to ICC rules, in case the main pitch is found unfit.

Why a curator would talk negatively about his pitch just two days before a venue’s first Test belies logic. But a look at the pitch threw some light.

Appearing parched in a few patches, the fifth pitch in the square, which is designated for the Test, is bound by dead grass. However, it didn’t look well rolled.

Read | Why Anil Kumble won’t ask Virat Kohli’s boys to curb aggression in Ranchi Test

The groundsmen watering the pitch just before the India team came for practice only made it look worse from the press box, but that also had to do with the high clay content in the soil.

BOUNCE NOT ENCOURAGING

Between a flat pitch and a square turner, Ranchi doesn’t hold out much hope of a vastly different pitch for the third Test. After arriving, India coach Anil Kumble had a fairly long conversation with Singh while inspecting the pitch. Then the curator started the process of checking the bounce of the pitch at different places with a cricket ball. The results were not encouraging.

Read | Ian Chappell thumbs down sledging, says Australia cannot ‘throw stones’ at India

It will be a slow pitch for sure and a few deliveries might keep low even on the first day. And going by the turn extracted by R Ashwin while rolling his arm over on the adjacent pitch, spin should play a major part here too. At what juncture of the Test will that happen though is key.

DANCING TO SPINNERS’ TUNE

Spinners can be a menace at Ranchi. In the first Ranji Trophy match held this season, 40 wickets fell in three days with Chhattisgarh thumping Tripura by nine wickets. In the season previous to that, Jharkhand rode on an 11-wicket haul by Shahbaz Nadeem to spank Himachal Pradesh by an innings and 71 runs.

But Ranchi has also produced featherbeds where batsmen have made merry. Going by the end-of-season trend, this pitch should not have been a problem for batsmen. Those in the know, however, claim this pitch was prepared fresh only for this Test and should produce a result. Whether that will come at the expense of more embarrassment for the BCCI is the biggest question.