India playing on green wickets at home is good for Test cricket
Skipper Virat Kohli says the team has asked for livelier pitches in India to prepare for seaming conditions for the forthcoming overseas tours to South Africa and England. It augurs well for the team when they travel outside Asia.editorials Updated: Nov 24, 2017 18:45 IST
The first Test match between India and Sri Lanka at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens last week saw a record few anticipated in a match played in India: medium pacers took all the 17 wickets that fell; the spinners went wicketless, an unprecedented occurrence in 261 Tests played in this country. India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav bowled 99 overs between them. And Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja — our two spinners ranked in the ICC top five in the Test rankings — bowled merely 10. The wicket was lively and lush, friendly to swing and seam bowling, and a welcome change to the flat tracks on which Indian quick bowlers are used to bending their back to extract any degree of life. KL Rahul and skipper Virat Kohli told reporters that the team had asked for livelier pitches to prepare for seaming conditions for the forthcoming overseas tours to South Africa and England. With a packed schedule not allowing the freedom of a proper training camp before the South Africa tour, these wickets will afford the team valuable practice.
But there is something else as well. Clearly the India team has come a long way from 2012, when, prior to a Test match against England at Eden Gardens, Mahendra Singh Dhoni — captain at the time — had asked for a square turner. Curator Probir Mukherjee famously refused to tailor the pitch, leading to an acrimonious exchange between him and Dhoni. If India, playing on sporting, lively wickets at home, manage to become the world’s best Test team, it would be quite a feat. One hopes that dust bowls and flat tracks, which give the home side a huge advantage, are truly things of the past. Playing on tracks such as the one at the Eden Gardens last week will also winkle out a longstanding flaw in the techniques of many Indian batsmen. Being brought up on pitches with little bounce hardly equips them to cut and pull – shots that are the most fruitful on faster, bouncier tracks abroad. A lot of Indian batsmen, therefore, are susceptible to the short, rising delivery. To eliminate this technical blemish, pitches for domestic cricket also need to be livened up.
Unlike at many points in the past, India should look to fearlessly exploit fast pitches at the moment. We now have a set of bowlers who can bowl around or even above 140 kmph. They can be a handful on seamer-friendly and swinging wickets. This augurs well for India when they travel outside Asia. Winning away from home in unfamiliar, often hostile, conditions, is always the true test of how good a team really is. Finally, pitches such as these make Test matches enthralling. For a format of the game that is struggling for relevance in an era dominated by the popularity of the T20, that can only be a good thing.
First Published: Nov 24, 2017 18:02 IST