After the pitch of the first Test against Australia in Pune was rated as ‘poor’ by the ICC match referee and the pitch for the second Test in Bangalore was declared ‘below average’, the condition of the Ranchi pitch has become a major talking point ahead of the third Test beginning on Thursday.
While Indian media has been fairly impartial in its observances, Australian counterparts have gone on the offensive in detailing the presumably extreme conditions of the pitch.
On Wednesday, Hindustan Times reported that SP Singh, the local curator of the Jharkhand States Cricket Association (JSCA) Stadium, had refrained from expressly stating that the pitch would last a full five days.
HT’s inspection of the pitch divulged that it was parched in few patches and bound by dead grass, but was also well rolled.
The pitch had been watered just before the Indian cricket team came out to practice which left it with dark brown patches that might have looked worse than they actually were; the appearance after watering could have been down to the high clay content of the soil.
The curator was also seen checking the bounce of the track after consultation with India coach Anil Kumble. From the state of the turf two days before the match, it is expected that it will be a slow pitch and that few deliveries will keep low.
It also seemed to be a pitch which would assist spinners.
Having seen pitches described as unseen back home by the Australian media, visiting news agencies are not holding back in their assessment of the Ranchi pitch.
Leading the aggressively critical form of reporting is The Daily Telegraph, an agency under the auspices of News Corp Australia, which has described the Ranchi pitch as a realisation of “Australia’s’ worst fears”.
An article published on The Daily Telegraph is titled “Indian pitch doctors take their craft to a new low in Ranchi” which provides Australian readers a first-look assessment of the Ranchi pitch.
Their assessment states that “pitch doctoring has now gone to another level and the reputation and integrity of Indian cricket is on the brink of complete embarrassment”.
The agency furthered says, “India would happily put up with another slap on the wrist from the ICC for the Ranchi pitch if they can ambush Australia with a series-defining hit and run job starting on Thursday”.
Even more, it alleges that India’s preparation for the third Test may not be following “the spirit of the game”.
“…if early impressions of this devilish pitch come to fruition, it could be argued India has done nothing to adhere to the ICC’s demands for both teams to play in the spirit of the game,” The Daily Telegraph said.
The article was also picked up by New Zealand Herald.
Another publication of News Corp Australia, namely News.com.au, posted a quiz for readers which asked them to identify the Ranchi pitch from images in multiple-choice questions.
The quiz, titled “Quiz: The Ranchi dirt track challenge”, was cross posted on The Daily Telegraph website and arguably poked fun at the expense of India captain Virat Kohli.
One of the questions states “Virat Kohli hates cheating in all its forms. Which of the following pitches might he consider comfortably within ‘the spirit of cricket’?”
The answers for these images show an image of a cricket pitch, a slip-and-slide, a set of trampolines, and a pair of feet walking on hot coal. The correct answer is shown to be the set of trampolines.
News.com.au also published a report with quotes from former Australian Test player Rodney Hogg. In the article Hogg talks about Virat Kohli needing to improve his batting average and that he expects the Ranchi pitch to be a good batting track.
The same article contains an image of the Ranchi pitch which is captioned as “The Ranchi wasteland,” while earlier in the article it was described as “the worst pitch of the series so far”.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Famed news house The Australian also seemed to criticise the pitch, albeit in a more restrained manner.
Claiming that “India have attempted to blunt the bounce of Australia’s pacemen” they described the Ranchi wicket as “a patchwork-quilt pitch”
The Australian observed that, “Every blade of grass had been removed from the wicket, which had lumpy sections of rough and also some parts that were soaked. The outfield also raised some eyebrows.”
While The Australian may have been tactful with its words, The Daily Telegraph was far from attempting to do so.
Some fake pix getting around earlier. This is the Ranchi pitch. Just watered. pic.twitter.com/MPV4rEgqAu— Peter Lalor (@plalor) March 14, 2017
Describing “Ravi Jadeja a potential assassin on this pitch” they also claimed that “there are clearly defined bare patches on this wicket custom made specifically for fellow spinner Ravi Ashwin to exploit”.
Furthermore, they laid blame on the BCCI and team management for the condition of the pitch.
“If the decision was between well done, medium and rare - India have selected a surface off the menu as raw, dry and grassless as any pitch this Australian team has ever seen,” The Daily Telegraph reported.