By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) Chennai Super Kings fielded three spinners against SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Tuesday, and two of them shared three very important wickets, including that of Jonny Bairtsow and Kane Williamson, to help CSK secure a win and give the struggling team a much needed lifeline in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
As many as three spinners in an XI – in CSK’s case Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, and Karn Sharma — is an indication that spinners, or slow bowlers, will play a key role going forward with the pitches starting to wear out.
“Spinners will come into play. Wickets are getting tired. There are three pitches [venues] to play on, so they will get tired,” said legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, the bowling coach of SRH, on the sidelines of Tuesday night’s game, while referring to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Tuesday’s CSK-SRH game was the first of the second half of the league phase of the tournament.
Till now, pace bowlers have led the bowling charts, with the only spinners in the top 10 wicket-takers being SRH’s Rashid Khan and Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) Yuzvendra Chahal.
But things may change, although Delhi Capitals’s fast bowler Anrich Nortje bowled three fastest deliveries in IPL history in a game against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday in Dubai.
With pitches beginning to wear out and tire with just three venues being used, rotation of playing surfaces becomes key.
A couple of Indian curators IANS spoke to feel the wickets will begin to take turn not just because of limited venues and dry weather but also because the matches haven’t been spaced out properly.
It initially seemed that the BCCI had planned the tournament well. They had given just 10 matches to Sharjah, which has just three pitches, so there wouldn’t be much load on these. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are sharing the bulk of games and there are more pitches there for rotation.
“However, of what I have heard that is not happening. There are only a limited number of pitches — three at the most — that are being used,” says a curator who did not wish to be named.
Dubai is hosting the maximum league games, 24, while Abu Dhabi is hosting 20.
“Ideally, they should not have kept back-to-back games at a venue,” adds the curator.
Whether or not pitches are being rotated, one venue hosting back-to-back matches is happening on quite a few occasions.
For example, Wednesday’s game between Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals took place in Dubai, so did Tuesday’s match between CSK and SRH.
Games on October 6 and 7 took place at one venue, i.e. Abu Dhabi, even though it was not a weekend on which double headers are played. Similarly, matches on September 24 and 25 too took place at one place i.e. Dubai.
These are instances on weekdays and alternate venues could have been used. If weekends are counted then back-to-back games are aplenty.
Of course, this problem has arisen due to the limited number of venues in these extraordinary times as the tournament is being played in the United Arab Emirates due to Covid-19. In India, the matches are spread out across, at least, eight venues.
When asked about the problem of rotation, former head of BCCI’s pitches and grounds committee Daljit Singh said things do become difficult when there are limited venues.
“I think BCCI has done a tremendous job in ensuring that the IPL has been held this time. They have ensured that the livelihood of cricketers and others is not affected. However, in this case, I think it would have been better had they sent an Indian curator or two who has huge experience in conducting such a long tournament,” said Daljit.
“There are technicalities and science involved which they are aware of,” he pointed out.
In situations like these, five-six pitches are used alternately. Like pitches Nos.1, 3, and 5 would be used first, and then Nos. 2, 4, and 6.
It is a surprise as to why the Board of Control for Cricket in India failed to send even a single India curator to the UAE while it has sent officials from several other departments.
Those in charge of pitch preparation are the curators who are already employed there. Ideally, there should have been an India curator with experience of IPL.
The last time IPL happened in the UAE, in 2014, curator PR Viswanathan was sent even though only 20 matches were held there at the time.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s game in Dubai, Steve Smith looked at the pitch and immediately said, “It looks dry.” There could be more such reactions.
Whether or not the pitches tire out or spinners come into play remains to be seen.