Spin in the 23rd over, scowl on James Anderson’s face, 106/1 at lunch, no sign of swing, no life in track, you wonder if India was playing home or away. From the commentary box, a surprised Rahul Dravid said, “Never seen Trent Bridge pitch play slow.”
The venue known for its lively pitch and swing-friendly conditions wasn’t living up to its reputation. For the first time since 2009, India had scored over 100 in an away Test before lunch.
It seemed that much-talked about cool breeze that was to blow from river Trent — which gets trapped into the stadium bowl and influences the movement of the ball — hadn’t been told about the Test match schedule.
The decision makers in the visiting dressing room would have even contemplated writing an official complaint about the huge oversight of keeping ‘Trent’ in the dark.
First they land in the country with seven pacers then gather courage to include Stuart Binny in the playing XI and after all this the ‘swing’ disappears. They had reason to feel cheated or were they naïve?
Opener Shikhar Dhawan did fall to Anderson, but that had more to do with ‘uncomfortable length’ and not ‘disconcerting deviation’. This wasn’t followed by India’s age-old ‘first-day-overseas’ ritual of the all too familiar collapse.
Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara weren’t playing and missing, as generations of Indians have done in the early part of an away tour. The two were settling, middling, leaving and scoring.
That too at a brisk pace. In the first session, between them they hit 18 fours that raced over the lush outfield. Was this Nottingham or Nagpur, was the joke going around.
But cricket is never short of theories, the experts can explain everything. So the ‘why it swings’ explanation was dumped for a ‘why it doesn’t’ one. The grounds men were forced to produce a dead track, they start.
You almost anticipate the rest of the story. Call from Chennai, BCCI’s growing influence and their manipulative ways.
For once the story is different. It was the local association, and not the BCCI, that was keen to suck away the life from the 22 yards.
Itinerary decided by bids
In England, the itinerary is decided by bids.
So Nottingham paid through its nose to get the opening match of the highly-popular and immensely-profitable India-England series. And since they were keen to stretch the Test for five full days, the pitch got a brown shade and dry feel.
A look at past scorecards shows it isn’t just at Trent Bridge that the wicket has lost the juice. During the Sri Lanka series, Lord’s and Headingley too saw sub-continent-like tracks.
Time for the third theory, that explains the almost extinction of the truly ‘English pitch’. The drainage system is blamed for this.
Local boy and England new ball bowler, Stuart Broad, gives credence to this theory.
“The clubs have all spent huge money on all these drainage systems to make sure we can get out on the field but I don’t know how much research was done into what they’ll do to the pitches.”
The ECB has marketed this series as a ‘The Indian Summer’, didn’t know the experience would be so authentic.