The debate over the ‘challenging’ and ‘toughest’ pitches prepared for the India-South Africa series is yet to die down — the Nagpur pitch was rated ‘poor’ — but the voice against poor wickets prepared for this Ranji season is growing louder. Due to pressure from captains and team managements, most curators end up violating the BCCI guidelines for pitch preparation.
A total of 108 matches have been played this Ranji season. Nine of the four-day games ended in two days, 17 on the third. Spinners have plundered wickets on under-prepared pitches. The hosts have won 36 matches and taken the first innings lead in a majority of games.
The BCCI guidelines for pitch preparation are world class, they are flouted with impunity. And no one is being punished. The rules say for awarding points, there should not be any variable bounce or excessive spin on Day 2.
In the last Ranji league round from Dec 1-4, in five matches, 80 wickets fell on Day 1 — an average 16 wickets per game. Of those, 85 percent were taken by spinners.
The guidelines say: “A wicket which provides low and uneven bounce, little carry, excessive turn or seam moment, offers too much assistance to spinners from an early stage of the match. Wear and tear is visible from the initial stages, dangerous at times. Such a pitch is called poor wicket and hence no point is to be rewarded.”
A BCCI pitch and grounds committee zonal curator told HT:
“Most of the times, we don’t have any say. Captains and team officials sometimes plead with us, sometimes use bad language demanding that we prepare a favourable pitch for them. This home team advantage syndrome is the biggest culprit here.”
Though many complaints have been filed over the years by opposing teams, match referees and curators, it does not appear that any captain or team official has been punished strongly. A rare instance is the banning of the Railways-run Karnail Stadium in the Capital.
The guidelines say a good pitch should provide consistently high bounce and carry to start with and then settle into one good for stroke play on Day 1. It describes the gradual wear and tear of the pitch and says only on Day 5 can there be highly variable bounce and considerable turn for spinners. Rahul Dravid, the India junior coach, last month slammed the practice of underpreparing pitches. “We need to nip this in the bud. We need to start forcing teams to prepare good wickets.”