India vs New Zealand: In the run-up to first Test, nature of pitches triggers a debate

India had produced spin tracks against South Africa last year, and even won a Test against South Africa in three days in Nagpur.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 20, 2016 9:28 am
India vs New Zealand, Ind vs NZ, India vs New Zealand Test series, india vs New Zealand Kanpur test, India cricket, New Zealand cricket, Cricket news, Cricket Even South African greats — Hashim Alma and AB de Villiers — struggled to make an impact on the turning tracks in India. (Source: File)

The state of pitches to be laid out in the Test series against New Zealand has thrown up interesting reactions from Indian cricketers. Two middle-order batsmen Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane present differing opinions, and the offspinner Harbhajan Singh warns the spin tactic could backfire, and speaks up for sporting tracks. In July, Sharma had said India might not prepare big turners for New Zealand as “they have two good spin bowlers”, while on Monday, Rahane said he hoped the tracks would aid turn.

In an interaction at the Express Adda, Sharma had supported the decision to produce turning tracks for South Africa last year but had said it was a horses-for-courses policy, and would likely be ditched against New Zealand. “We knew that the South African team lacked in their spin department and we have a gem of a spin attack. We wanted to use that. That was the only thinking behind it. When we play New Zealand here in India, it might be totally different. They do have two good spin bowlers, so things might be different.”

On Monday, Harbhajan, who is currently out of the Test squad, said that Indian batting line-up had struggled on turners against South Africa, and also brought up the World T20 game where Indian batsmen were bundled out for 79 by New Zealand’s spinners led by Mitchell Santner.

“Save the last Test match at Kotla, where Ajinkya (Rahane) batted exceptionally and Virat got runs, our batsmen also suffered. I can tell you if we go for rank turners, it can boomerang on us like World T20 in Nagpur. Mitch Santner and Ish Sodhi could prove to be a handful,” Harbhajan told PTI.

In a media interaction ahead of the New Zealand Tests, Rahane said he hoped for a turning track. “Hopefully the wicket will turn. We all know in India that wickets are helpful for the spinners. That is our strength here and it is important to play to our strengths. As of now not sure how the wicket will behave.”

Rahane, the only centurion in the series against South Africa, said Indian batsmen would attack the New Zealand spinners. “Our plan is to not let them settle down and dominate them.”

India had produced spin tracks against South Africa last year, and even won a Test against South Africa in three days in Nagpur, though they copped an official warning from the ICC for the surface.

“Are we gaining anything by winning inside two and half to three days?” Harbhajan asked. “Are we also being fair to our batsmen who struggled against South African spinners during last home series? “

Harbhajan has played on an underprepared turner at the Green Park in Kanpur in 2008 against South Africa where Sourav Ganguly played one of his best Test knocks (87) and VVS Laxman hit a fine fifty. And the team had Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag in its line-up.

Harbhjan had opened the bowling in the second innings and took four wickets.

Harbhajan hoped that current team management led by the coach Anil Kumble won’t repeat the decisions taken by the team over the last five years. “Over the past four-five years, the previous team managements have preferred pitches where Test matches would end inside three days. But I believe both Anil bhai and Virat are positive people, who would like to play on good Test pitches, where the results are decided on the fourth evening or by the fifth day post lunch session,” the off-spinner said.

Harbhajan reckoned that a sporting track was the way forward. “But if we can produce a sporting pitch where our batsmen can score 400 runs if batting first, New Zealand can’t beat us. Man to man, we are a better unit. Even if we prepare sporting tracks, we can win 3-0,” the 36-year-old said.