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Pitchforked, Indians need to get over surface tension

As South Africa’s batsmen have already begun to show, there’s nothing in this pitch that should give a batsman the horrors. A report by Anand Vasu.
Hindustan Times | By Anand Vasu, Ahmedabad
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 02:52 PM IST

That immortal and much misquoted line from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth — the lady doth protest too much, methinks — rang in the ears all day as one Indian batsman after the other perished.

All we’ve heard since South Africa landed on Indian soil has centred around the pitch, bar one day of Virender Sehwag magic when everything else was banished to the background.

Going into the second Test, Anil Kumble was reportedly unhappy that the pitch at Ahmedabad would not do enough, and wanted the grass removed. On the surface of it, it looks as though he got it wrong at the toss, when he chose to bat, but that is far from true.

Grass or no grass, even with five bowlers in the team, the right thing to do was bat first, but that’s assuming you make more than 76.

India’s young fast bowlers have done well in recent times, but it is still the spinners you turn to for match-winning performances. What’s more, had India put a sizeable total on the board — and that would have been the plan and hope — then the spinners would have come into their own on the third and fourth days.

There was every danger that Dhiraj Parsana, the curator, would have been made the villain of the piece, and when Harbhajan Singh, who fronted the media later in the day, said that India should play to their strengths at home, it appeared as though he was heading predictably down that road.

But in a refreshing show of honesty, he accepted blame, on behalf of the team — for its batting effort, or the lack of it.

There were shades of Nagpur 2004 when a grassy pitch — that one had seamed a lot — played right into Australia’s hands and India lost a crucial game. Then, there was the thought that the Vidarbha Cricket Association had deliberately served up such a surface to spite the team. Here, that’s definitely not the case.

As South Africa’s batsmen have already begun to show, there’s nothing in this pitch that should give a batsman the horrors.

But the manner in which India’s batsmen played, they already had it in their heads that the fates were conspiring against them, and the gremlins in the mind ensured defeat even before Dale Steyn did his thing.

Paddy Upton, rather elaborately called the Physical and Mental Conditioning and Strategic Leadership Coach, has a job on his hands.

He needs to ensure that the champion cricketers in the Indian dressing room stop protesting about the pitch, even in private, and play like they actually can.

Then we’ll have an interesting match on our hands, even if today’s passage of play has already ensured that the pitch at Kanpur will be an under-prepared rank turner.

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