On a day when the ICC termed the Nagpur Test match wicket as ‘poor’, spinners were having a field day in domestic cricket.
At Dindigul, Tamil Nadu rolled out a rank turner in their must-win Ranji Trophy Group B fixture against Punjab. But the ploy backfired as they were bundled out for 68 in their first innings, replying to the visitors’ 206 all out. Punjab were 36/1 at stumps, making it a 21-wicket first day. Spinners took 20 of those 21 wickets. Tamil Nadu spinners, DT Chandrasekar, Malolan Rangarajan and Rahil Shah, shared nine scalps between them during Punjab’s first dig. And then, when the hosts came to bat they found Rajwinder Singh almost unplayable. The left-arm spinner claimed a six-for, while Harbhajan Singh chipped in with three wickets. In fact, Punjab didn’t even bother using a fast bowler when they bowled.
From Test matches to domestic cricket, underprepared pitches have become a fad in India this season. The spinner-friendly pitches have drawn flak from former India skipper and current Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid. “In the Ranji Trophy this year, the teams are producing, in my opinion, poor wickets. Square turners; matches are finishing in two or three days. I really don’t think it’s good for the health of Indian cricket.”
So, Kerala, too, decided to play on a square turner against Himachal Pradesh.
With 25 points from seven matches before this game, Kerala are in the second position in Group C. But both HP and Jharkhand are breathing down their neck with 24 each. In search for an outright win in their final group league encounter, they prepared a pitch at Malappuram that accounted for 20 scalps on Day 1. The hosts, however, conceded the first innings lead because HP’s left-arm spinner Rahul Singh (6/19) made the ball talk. Kerala spinners, Fabid Ahmed, Akshay Chandran and K Monish, responded well, taking eight wickets between them to keep their team alive.
In another Group C fixture in Hyderabad, 11 wickets fell on the first day. The hosts produced a result-oriented pitch but Jharkhand bowlers made merry. Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem ripped through the cream of Hyderabad batting, returning with 3/33.
In Jammu, Saurashtra spinners Dharmendra Jadeja and Kamlesh Makvana returned with 2/7 and 2/18 respectively as the hosts were bowled out for 138 in their first innings. To be fair, seamer Saurya Sanandiya was the real hero for Saurashtra with a five-for on a 12-wicket day.
The trend is hurting former Eden Gardens curator Prabir Mukherjee. “This is not the way of playing cricket. This is against the spirit of the game. What happened at Nagpur was unfair. The ICC has done the right thing. I must also say, what has been happening in the Ranji Trophy is also very unfair. But when the parent body is encouraging the unfair (pitch preparation) practice, then how do you blame the state associations?” he said.