Pray, Jaipur does not haunt us like Nagpur | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Pray, Jaipur does not haunt us like Nagpur

In two and a half decades of covering cricket around the world, I have not come across a single incident where India have been provided practice wickets tailor-made for their needs, writes Pradeep Magazine.

cricket Updated: Sep 28, 2008 09:44 IST

Nagpur, much like Jaipur, is a burgeoning city where the new and the old jostle for space, where development may get reflected in the widening of roads but chaotic traffic and congestion still remain. It is here, in 2004, that the Australians finally conquered what they had termed "the final frontier".

As the debate on whether the Rajasthan Cricket Association should have rolled out the red carpet to the touring Australians gets shriller by the day, the memory of those few tumultuous days in a wintry Nagpur month flashes across the mind.

The Indians, after losing the Bangalore Test, had run the Australians very close in Chennai, before rain on the final day ruined a riveting Test which could have gone either way. The series was very much alive.

The excitement and suspense of "what next" received a hammer blow even before the Test began. A green, hard wicket sent waves of panic through the Indian team and its well wishers. No one could understand why and how the Indians could prepare a wicket which suited the Australians to a T and put the Indians on the defensive straightaway. Even the Australians were shocked at this unexpected bounty.

For two days, Sourav Ganguly tried his best to persuade the curator and even went up to the president of the Vidharbha Cricket Association, Shashank Manohar, requesting him to at least cut the grass on the track. Those were the days when Jagmohan Dalmiya was still in power and Manohar was the most vocal supporter of the rival camp. He would not budge.

Ganguly "withdrew" from the match citing an injury, India was decimated and the Australians won a series in India for the first time ever.

As Manohar steps into the shoes of Dalmiya and Sharad Pawar today and takes over the reins of Indian cricket, the present controversy should remind him of what happened on his home turf four years ago.

The circumstances here are dissimilar in many ways. It will be childish, if not downright silly, to think for even a moment that Greg Chappell is revealing Indian secrets and betraying a country he once coached.

In the first place, there are not many secrets that the other side, in this age of technological revolution, won't know. In the second place, no coach, let alone someone like Chappell, who has a CV of many failures in this role, can, through his skills, transform a team into doing what it is not capable of. So let us not ridicule ourselves by harping upon this betrayal theme.

Chappell, in this globalised, professional world, has every right to choose his calling and earn his living from whichever side values his skills.

The important question that needs to be raised is, did Chappell get wickets prepared at the Academy on specifications from the Australians? As the head (or chief consultant) of the cricket academy in Rajasthan, he had an advantage of being in a position where he could get things done - which were otherwise not possible. Here, he was performing dual roles in conflict with each other. As a consultant of the Australian team, he has to serve their interests but as the RCA academy chief, he, in many ways, is answerable to Indian cricket interests as well. Or am I wrong here?

In two and a half decades of covering cricket around the world, I have not come across a single incident where India have been provided practice wickets tailor-made for their needs. They have had to make do with whatever was available and no host association ever went out of its way to provide quality net bowlers, something which the Australians are being provided so generously by the RCA.

By making wickets - and it takes months to do so - which would help the Australians enormously in coming to terms with turning tracks here, he has done a great service to the team of which he is a paid employee, but, in many ways, shown scant respect for professional ethics.

Like 2004 Nagpur, one only hopes that 2008 Jaipur does not come to haunt India again.