By Khurram Habib
Ahmedabad, Feb 25 (IANS) The pitch for the third Test here at the colossal and grand Motera stadium looked more like a construction site with puffs of dust rising, and the surface crumbling at both batting ends, even though the five-day pink ball Test was barely into its second day.
The ground-staff was summoned onto the pitch in only the fifth over of the second day’s play and again later to sweep the dust created around the bowlers’ footholds.
The surface had also required regular sweeping on the first day. At one end, the Reliance End, the footholds weren’t firm creating trouble for fast bowlers’ landing even in the first session of the first day, forcing Axar Patel to be pressed into the attack early on.
This isn’t the first time pitches have behaved in such a way in India’s home Tests. In November 2004 in Mumbai, a Rahul Dravid-led India had succumbed to Michael Clarke’s left-arm spin. Clarke took six wickets as India were bowled out for 205 to give Australia a target of 107 in fourth innings. India, though won the Test on the back of Harbhajan Singh’s five-wicket haul as the Aussies were bowled out for 93.
However, the area around the two batting ends being dry, crumbling and dusty and especially on pitches that haven’t been used, is surprising.
Due to Covid-19, Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium didn’t get to host any match for about 10 months. The Motera stadium has been built from scratch with a completely new wicket.
“Usually, the area around the batting ends [of a pitch] has little grass because of the matches that are played on it round the year. So, you have to prepare well. There are various methods, like how you roll among others,” explains Daljeet Singh, former head of the pitches and grounds committee.
But on fresh wickets with little cricket having happened in recent times, the onus falls on preparation. The pitch, it appears, was prepared poorly for this match.
It should be noted that the Indian cricket board curator Taposh Chatterjee was sent back after the first Test which India lost after England put up a huge total in the first innings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai.
According to sources, the team management got involved in the preparation of the pitch and it wasn’t watered at all ahead of the second Test, also played in Chennai.
“Similar thing has happened here. The wicket has been prepared under the supervision of the Indian team management. What they did was that they kept the pitch, especially the area around the batsman dry for spinners. It was a day or two before the start of the Test that some water given put on those areas just to settle it,” said a source close to the development.
Of the 30 wickets falling in the three completed innings, 28 went to spinners. In the last 72 years, only on two occasions have England fallen for a lower total than 112 after winning the toss and electing to bat.
The second Test pitch survived scrutiny as Rohit Sharma played a blinder and Ravichandran Ashwin scored a century as well.
But it will be interesting to see the rating that match referee here in Ahmedabad, former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath, gives to this surface considering that according to the ICC rules, a pitch that helps spin from early on especially from first session has points docked.